Technically referred to as pyrosis, heartburn which involves a burning feeling around the regions of chest and breastbone is caused as a result of reverse movement or 'reflux' of gastric acid. The burning feeling caused may take the form of a sharp pain to affect the upper parts of chest, neck and throat as well.

What are the Causes of Heartburn

  • GERD or disease related to gastroesophegal reflux happens to be the most common cause of heartburn.
  • Gastrointestinal disorder or an infection in the gastrointestinal tract may also lead to heartburn.
  • By way of acid reflux, stomach acid makes its way back into the food pipe causing heartburn.
  • The disturbed pH balance of the food pipe causes heartburn.
  • Any disorder hampering the mobility of esophageal tract can also give rise to heartburn.
  • Changed physiological conditions such as pregnancy may give rise to heartburn.
  • Spicy food, alcoholic beverage and medications containing ibuprofen may cause heartburn.
  • It is important to note that certain disturbed cardio logical conditions such as 'angina' and 'ischemic heart' may also cause heart burn.

Types of Heartburn

  • Analyzing the various causes of heartburn, it can be classified into the following types.
  • There can be heartburn related to GERD
  • The one related to acid reflux
  • Heartburn related to indigestion.
  • Heartburn related to cardio logical disorder.

Symptoms of Heartburn

  • Besides feeling a pinching sensation of burning and discomfort, there may be those of regurgitation and dyspepsia.
  • As part of regurgitation one may feel the burning effects of acid making its way up the esophagus into throat and mouth.
  • It may lead to a sour burp with a part of food content from the stomach being led into the mouth.
  • There may be sour feeling in the mouth as well.
  • As part of dyspeptic symptoms, one may feel nauseous after meals.
  • There may be a feeling of uneasy fullness
  • Heartburn may also give way to pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen.
  • Overall disturbance in digestion will make way for poor or loss of appetite.
  • As a result of continuous acid reflux esophagus may undergo wear and tear becoming narrow.
  • Hernia and ulcers may also give way to heartburn.

Diagnosis of Heartburn

  • Analysis of the symptoms will lead to the diagnosis of the original cause responsible for heartburn.
  • Depending on nature and frequency of occurrence, physicians generally differentiate heartburn caused by gastrointestinal disorders from that caused by cardiac malfunction.
  • Ascertaining the primary cause may be followed by other investigations involving endoscope-a device which can highlight the extent and severity of the disease.
  • Endoscope which comes in the form of a movable tube attached to a camera may be pushed through the oral cavity to find out the conditions of food pipe, stomach and intestines.
  • X rays and ultrasonography can also be used to detect the condition of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • One of the common methods includes taking an x ray followed by the consumption of suspension in barium.
  • By way of esophageal manometers one can detect the mobility of esophageal sphincter - muscles at its lower ends.
  • Another test includes the analysis of the pH content of the esophagus; whereby the intensity of acid reflux affecting the food pipe can be measured.

Treatment for Heartburn

  • It may affect infants, growing children, teenagers and adults; and accordingly the mode of treatment will vary.
  • Usually acid reflux is treated with PPI or 'Proton pump inhibitors'.
  • Formula based on 'H2 blockers' and antacid may also be made use of as part of treatment catering to GERD and acid reflux.
  • Usually besides the administration of antacid and other forms of medications, a change in the dietary and lifestyle centric regimen is also insisted upon by physicians.
  • Surgery is also adopted to cure heartburn in cases of severe concern.

Heartburn Self Care and Life Style Changes

  • In cases of infants suffering from gastric reflux, they may be advised to be provided with smaller and recurrent feedings, besides burping and elevated position while feeding. Administration of rice cereal may also be suggested so as to aid the process of digestion.
  • For growing children and adults it is imperative that they avoid food that aid acid formation; in case they are suffering from heartburn.
  • Besides taking smaller meals and ensuring regular gaps between meals; food items such as caffeinated and carbonated drinks, chocolates, tomatoes and tomato based ketchups and sauces should be avoided. Spicy food high in fat and oil content should be avoided for similar reasons.
  • Physicians may also advise on cutting down on the consumption of citrus fruits.
  • The mentioned variety of food item aids acid reflux and regurgitation by lessening pressure on esophageal Sphincter.
  • Apart from allowing sufficient gap between meals and lying down; change and elevation of sleeping position may serve to reduce heartburn.
  • Besides exercising for the purpose of shedding weight; light and bland meals that serve to neutralize acidic condition of the system should be resorted to.