Heartburn: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

heartburn word in letterpress type

If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation in your chest or throat after a meal, you may have been experiencing heartburn, the main symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Heartburn is usually caused by the weakening of the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, the muscle responsible for allowing food to enter the stomach. This weakened muscle allows stomach acid to enter the esophagus, leading to the burning associated with heartburn and GERD. 

Over 60 million men and women living in the United States suffer from the symptoms of heartburn, also called acid indigestion, at least one time per month. The symptoms of this condition are can include:

  • A burning pain in the chest (behind the sternum, or chest bone) that typically occurs after eating and can last from minutes to several hours
  • Pain that will worsen when lying down, bending over, or exercising
  • Burning in the throat or difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling like food is ‘sticking’ in the back of the throat or is coming back up
  • Sour or bitter taste in the mouth and throat

Heartburn treatment focuses on decreasing the number of reflux episodes by halting the flow of acid into the esophagus and decreasing the stomach’s acid production. These treatments can include a variety of lifestyle changes, from avoiding foods that tend to trigger reflux episodes to losing weight and quitting smoking. A variety of medications can also be prescribed to slow the production of stomach acid or to neutralize its effects.

If you experience pain from heartburn more than twice a week, have difficulty swallowing, or symptoms continue despite treatment with over-the-counter medications, consider making an appointment with your physician. Heartburn symptoms can also mimic some of the signs of a heart attack; if you ever have doubt about the source of your symptoms, consider seeking medical attention immediately. For expert heart and vascular care in the Riverside, CA area, visit Riverside Community Hospital. Schedule a consultation or learn more about us by calling (951) 788-3000 today.

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