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What is heartburn? Is it a serious concern and how can I prevent it?

Heartburn occurs as a burning sensation felt just behind the breastbone. In most cases, heartburn resolves without causing serious concern, but it may be an indicator of more serious problems that can follow.

Heartburn is a result of the backflow of acid and other contents from the stomach into the esophagus. This happens because of the abnormal relaxation of the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.

The backflow of acid into the esophagus may cause damage, which leads to inflammation (esophagitis), and esophageal cancer in more serious cases. It can also lead to chronic cough, hoarseness, teeth erosion and worsen asthma.

Certain people are at higher risk for the development of serious complications of heartburn. Most individuals with angina or decreased flow of blood to the heart may also experience heartburn.

Therefore, if you have crossed the age of 40, and have signs of frequent heartburn, it is essential to get evaluated by a gastroenterologist to get a precise diagnosis immediately.

Heartburn may be controlled by several measures, but it depends on the severity of the symptoms and their cause. Generally, the following precautions may be taken to relieve heartburn:

  • Elevate the head side of your bed between 4-6 inches
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol, tomato, and its products, citrus fruits and juices, chocolate, mints, and fatty substances
  • Avoid lying down immediately and for at least 3 hours following a meal
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid tight-fitting dresses and try losing weight

Disclaimer: We do not assume responsibility for the use of the provided information or its interpretation. Our efforts are towards providing current and reliable information; however these should not be considered, or used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment.

Source: https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Education/Medical-Library/