Approximately 15 million people experience heartburn each day. Even more experience it at least once a month. The term heartburn is really a misnomer since it really does not affect the heart. However, there is a similarity between some of its symptoms and those of certain heart diseases. Heartburn occurs when acid from the stomach flows back into the esophagus. The medical term for the chest pain /burning sensation that results from the acid flow is pyrosis.
The symptoms of pyrosis are easy to identify. When it strikes, most people experience a burning sensation in the chest and throat. That sensation can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours. It gets worse when lying down or when bending. One may feel as if food is stuck in the middle of his or her chest when swallowing food. In some cases, one may experience sore throat or hoarseness.
It is important to note that not all cases of heartburn are the same. There are several different types of heartburn. Nighttime heartburn occurs at night and can sometimes cause loss of sleep. Summer heartburn is triggered by a combination of high temperatures and certain food usually eaten during that time; primarily acidic or fatty foods.
During pregnancy, the pressure on the stomach from the uterus causes heartburn. This kind of heart burn is especially frequent during the third trimester. When the symptoms are experienced twice or thrice times a week, it is known as chronic heartburn. This requires medical attention as it could actually be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Doctors do an endoscopy test to test for heartburn. This test entails viewing the esophagus through an endoscope. When symptoms are unusual, other test methods such as an Esophageal pH Test and a probe study may be used. If a diagnosis of heartburn is confirmed, treatment can then be started. Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Antacids can easily take care of occasional heartburn. If the symptoms are persistent, H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors are ideal.
Individuals who experience frequent bouts of heartburn should take care to avoid foods that cause heartburn such as onions or peppermint. One should eat meals at least two or three hours before going to bed. The meal portions should be small and one should eat slowly as well. One should avoid nicotine and alcohol and maintain a healthy body weight.
A large number of people experience heart burn at least once every month. It is not a serious problem but if the symptoms are severe, it might be a symptom of GERD. Antacids work well to clear up many of the mild symptoms. However, making a few changes in lifestyle can eliminate the problem altogether.