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Heartburn

Heartburn: Introduction

GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD is a very common condition. GERD results from the relaxation of the muscles around the entrance to the stomach, which allows a back flow of food, stomach acid and digestive enzymes up into the esophagus. This is called acid reflux.

Ongoing acid reflux can lead to inflammation of the esophagus and GERD. Typical symptoms of GERD include a burning sensation in the upper abdomen and chest, heartburn, and indigestion. Some people with GERD may also have a condition called hiatal hernia, which can aggravate symptoms of GERD.

Complications of untreated GERD include the development of esophageal ulcers, scarring of the esophagus, Barrett's esophagus, and increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of GERD.

GERD is most common in people who smoke, are overweight or obese, are pregnant, and/or are older or elderly.

Diagnosing GERD and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination.

Diagnostic testing generally includes an endoscopy procedure. In this procedure, a special lighted instrument is inserted through the mouth and throat into the esophagus and stomach. This instrument, called an endoscope, takes pictures of the esophagus and stomach and/or sends images to a computer monitor.

Another test that might be performed is esophageal manometry. This test measures the pressure and contractions of the muscles of the esophagus. This can determine if the esophageal muscles around the entrance to the stomach are abnormally relaxed, which can allow stomach contents to back up into the esophagus. Other tests may include tests that measure the amount of stomach acid that is produced.

A diagnosis of GERD and its cause may be delayed or missed because symptoms of GERD may be mild or intermittent and for other reasons. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of GERD.

Many cases of GERD can be prevented with lifestyle changes, such as not smoking and not drinking acidic beverages or alcohol to excess. There are also many other ways to prevent acid reflux and control the severity of GERD. These include losing excessive weight, avoiding large meals and eating several small meals every day. It is also important to avoid eating late at night or up to two hours before bedtime. Clothing should be loose and not increase pressure on or constrict the abdomen. People with GERD may need to sleep in a semi-upright position, which allows gravity to help keep stomach acid from flowing up into the esophagus.

Treatment of GERD may also include the use of antacids and other medications. If GERD is caused by a hiatal hernia, treatment will include addressing the hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernia and severe cases of GERD may require hospitalization and surgery. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of GERD. ...more »

Heartburn: The term "heartburn" refers to the pain in the esophagus or chest that occurs when stomach acid is refluxed up into the throat (see reflux). The medical term for heartburn is "reflux esophagitis". Occasional heartburn is common and not necessarily serious. Chronic heartburn is indicative of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). In severe cases, the refluxed acid goes all the way up into the mouth and is tasted, and can cause Barrett's esophagitis. See also discussions of reflux, indigestion, and GERD.

Heartburn is a common misdiagnosis of heart attack, and other causes of chest pain should also be considered (e.g. heart attack, angina, GERD, gastric reflux, other causes of chest pain). Seek urgent medical attention for chest pain because of the possibility of serious causes of chest pain other than heartburn. ...more »

Heartburn: Symptoms

Symptoms of GERD can vary in nature and severity between individuals. Symptoms can be mild to severe.

In GERD, the acidic stomach contents flow from the stomach up the esophagus toward the mouth. This results in typical symptoms that include indigestion (heartburn) or epigastric pain that is burning in nature. This burning sensation can run ...more symptoms »

Heartburn: Treatments

Treatment plans for GERD are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause, minimizes the discomfort of heartburn and indigestion, and decreases the risk of developing complications, such as esophageal ...more treatments »

Heartburn: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of GERD and its underlying cause may be delayed or missed because the symptoms of GERD may not be severe enough or last long enough for a person to seek medical care.

Symptoms of GERD can also be similar to symptoms of a wide variety of other diseases and conditions. These include angina, indigestion, biliary colic, gastroenteritis, and gallstones. Other disease with ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Heartburn

Treatments for Heartburn

  • Antacids
  • Coping measures
    • Smaller more frequent meals
    • Eat slowing
    • Sleep with head raised - e.g. elevated your bed at one end or use more pillows
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Heartburn:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Heartburn?

Heartburn: Related Patient Stories

Heartburn: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Heartburn.

Alternative Treatments for Heartburn

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Heartburn may include:

Curable Types of Heartburn

Possibly curable types of Heartburn include:

  • Pregnancy associated heartburn
  • Heartburn associated with obesity
  • Mediacion ( nitrates, beta blockers) associated heartburn
  • Cholelithiasis associated with heartburn
  • Irritable bowel syndrome associated with heartburn
  • more types...»

Rare Types of Heartburn:

Rare types of Heartburn include:

  • Pregnancy associated heartburn
  • Heartburn associated with obesity
  • Mediacion ( nitrates, beta blockers) associated heartburn
  • Cholelithiasis associated with heartburn
  • Irritable bowel syndrome associated with heartburn
  • more types...»

Heartburn: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Heartburn:

Causes of Heartburn

More information about causes of Heartburn:

Disease Topics Related To Heartburn

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Heartburn:

Heartburn: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Heartburn

Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It is...read more »

Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have a heart attack, but actually have...read more »

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The best known, irritable bowel syndrome, is over-diagnosed...read more »

Rare heart condition often undiagnosed: The rare heart condition called long QT syndrome can lead to episodes of palpitations and rapid heartbeat. In rare...read more »

Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal imbalance. The digestive system contains a...read more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria, but can also kill the "good" bacteria in the gut. This...read more »

Heart attack can be over-diagnosed: Although heart attack is often undiagnosed, leading to fatality, it can also be over-diagnosed. People become concerned that a condition...read more »

Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning...read more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed (it can, of course, also fail to be...read more »

Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps, particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes. However, there are also various other causes. See causes of leg cramps or misdiagnosis of...read more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment...read more »

Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of symptoms (see symptoms of...read more »

Hypertension misdiagnosis common in children: Hypertension is often misdiagnosed in adults (see misdiagnosis of hypertension), but its misdiagnosis is even more likely in children. Some of the symptoms of hypertension that can...read more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis). See ...read more »

Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases. Some of the better known possibilities are peptic ulcer, colon cancer, ...read more »

Heartburn: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Heartburn

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Heartburn:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Heartburn, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Heartburn: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Heartburn

Heartburn: Animations

Research about Heartburn

Visit our research pages for current research about Heartburn treatments.

Clinical Trials for Heartburn

The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Heartburn include:

Prevention of Heartburn

Prevention information for Heartburn has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Heartburn.

Statistics for Heartburn

Heartburn: Broader Related Topics

Heartburn Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Heartburn, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Heartburn

Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): NIDDK (Excerpt)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly, and stomach contents splash back, or reflux, into the esophagus. The LES is a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts like a camera shutter between the esophagus and stomach. The esophagus carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn. The fluid may even be tasted in the back of the mouth, and this is called acid indigestion. Occasional heartburn is common but does not necessarily mean one has GERD. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD, which can eventually lead to more serious health problems. (Source: excerpt from Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): NIDDK)

Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): NIDDK (Excerpt)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly, and stomach contents splash back, or reflux, into the esophagus. The LES is a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts like a camera shutter between the esophagus and stomach. The esophagus carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn. The fluid may even be tasted in the back of the mouth, and this is called acid indigestion. Occasional heartburn is common but does not necessarily mean one has GERD. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD, which can eventually lead to more serious health problems. (Source: excerpt from Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): NIDDK)

Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): NIDDK (Excerpt)

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of GERD. Anyone experiencing heartburn twice a week or more may have GERD. (Source: excerpt from Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): NIDDK)

Definitions of Heartburn:

A painful burning sensation in the chest caused by gastroesophageal reflux (backflow from the stomach irritating the esophagus); symptomatic of an ulcer or a diaphragmatic hernia or other disorder - (Source - WordNet 2.1)

 

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