Heartburn is the name given to the unpleasant sensation that occurs when acid from the stomach rises up into the esophagus (food pipe) and throat where it causes a burning pain. This is also known as acid reflux. The pain of heartburn can last for several hours or more and is often made worse by eating. Many people suffer sleepless nights as a result of heartburn because lying can contribute to the condition and increase the pain.
One of the most common symptoms of GORD – Gastro – Oesophageal Reflux Disease. Despite the scary words GORD is not a serious condition and is experienced by one in ten people every day. However persistent heartburn can damage the lining of the esophagus so have a chat with your GP or pharmacist if you’re at all concerned. Heartburn can be more common during pregnancy as the body changes hormonally and physically.
If symptoms are severe or prolonged, you should consult a doctor or pharmacist. If you are pregnant, medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine during pregnancy.
Burning and pressure in your chest, especially after you eat?
A bitter or sour acid taste in the back of your throat?
If you feel those signs you might have heartburn. Also known as reflux, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), and acid indigestion. Heartburn is very common. About 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month.
For most people, the main causes are what they eat and their lifestyle habits. Health problems, such as hernias can also cause heartburn because they can weaken the LES valve between the esophagus and stomach. Certain medicine, such as tranquilizers, pain medicine, and asthma drugs, can make heartburn worse. If you’re taking any of these and you have heartburn, talk with your doctor.
What is Heartburn
Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart, but it can feel like pressure near the heart. It can also cause a burning pain in your chest, just above your stomach. Heartburn is caused when stomach acid flows backward into the esophagus, a tube that runs from your throat to your stomach.
The backward flow of acid is called reflux. Normally, stomach acid is kept in place by a muscular valve between the esophagus and stomach. This valve is called the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) valve. If the LES valve doesn’t work right, acid can flow backward into the esophagus, causing burning pain, irritation, and sometimes tissue damage.
Heartburn is a minor problem for most people. It can usually be managed by making a few simple lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter medicine.
If you have heartburn that’s mild or doesn’t happen very often, you might be able to control it by making some changes in your lifestyle and taking an over-the-counter medicine. If you have heartburn that’s more serious or happens often, even after making lifestyle changes and taking over-the-counter medicine, talk to your doctor about other options.
Fundoplication (Acid Reflux Surgery)
In this surgery, the surgeon wraps the top part of the stomach around the lower part of the esophagus. This creates a stronger barrier between the esophagus and stomach and helps prevent food and stomach acid from coming back up into the esophagus.
The surgery is most often minimally invasive, done with a thin tube called a laparoscope. Your doctor makes a small cut in your stomach and uses small tools and a camera inserted into the laparoscope to perform the surgery.
The goal of these treatments is to tighten the muscle in between the stomach and esophagus. During these treatments, your doctor lowers a thin tube called an endoscope into your mouth and down into your esophagus. Your doctor tightens the muscle by either using small stitches or heating small areas of the esophagus with radiofrequency energy. Endoscopic treatments may not be as widely available as surgery.
Over-the-counter antacids, acid blockers, and proton pump inhibitors can help when heartburn happens only once in awhile. These medicines can help relieve heartburn, but might not make the symptoms go away completely. We’ve listed some products that can help. Check with your pharmacist to see if generic versions of these products are available.
Antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Mylanta Supreme, Tums, and Gaviscon, reduce the effect of stomach acid and make you feel better quickly. Because antacids only last up to 3 hours, you have to take them several times a day. Liquid antacids usually work better than tablets. They taste best when refrigerated.
If you prefer to take antacid tablets instead of a liquid, make sure to chew them completely and drink water afterward.Certain antacid tablets, such as Gaviscon, might work well for you because they create a soothing foam that protects your esophagus from stomach acids. Antacids are safe for most people. Be sure to read the label for any precautions.
Acid Blockers and Proton-Pump Inhibitors
Acid blockers, such as Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, and Zantac 75 and proton-pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec and Prevacid, are also available over the counter. They lessen the amount of acid that your stomach makes and can be taken with antacids if needed. These take longer to work than antacids, but they last longer and you only need to take them once or twice a day. Be sure to read the directions. Some of these medicines should not be used for more than a couple of weeks without talking to your doctor.
Serious or Frequent Heartburn
If you have heartburn more than 3 times a week, or if it lasts for more than 2 weeks, even after making lifestyle changes and taking medicine, you might need longer-term treatment.Talk to your doctor about the options available to help relieve your heartburn. Some heartburn medicine may increase the risk for hip fracture if taken for long periods of time. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor about this risk and the importance of taking a ‘break’ from using medicine for your heartburn.