What is Heartburn

What Exactly Heartburn is ?


Under heartburn , many people suffer after enjoying sumptuous food or alcohol. Gastric acid flows upwards into the esophagus and irritates the mucous membrane. Symptoms such as burning pain and a pressure sensation behind the sternum are the consequences. If the reflux (reflux) of stomach acid happens only occasionally, there is usually no cause for concern. More heartburn, however, may indicate reflux disease. Read all about the topic: How is heartburn manifested? What causes it? What to do about heartburn? When do you have to go to the doctor?

Quick Overview

  • What is heartburn? Reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus and possibly even into the mouth. Typical signs include acid reflux and burning pain behind the sternum. If heartburn does not occur more often, it is called reflux disease(gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD).
  • Causes and risk factors: weakness or dysfunction of the sphincter at the stomach entrance, luscious meals, alcohol, coffee, smoking, citrus fruits, certain medications, pregnancy, stress, various diseases such as diaphragmatic rupture , gastritis (eg by the stomach germ Helicobacter pylori),
  • Investigations: Doctor-patient interview ( history ), physical examination, possibly further examinations such as mirroring ( endoscopy ) of the oesophagus and stomach, long-term acid measurement (pH-metry) – possibly combined with the so-called impedance measurement (as pH-metry). MII), pressure measurement (manometry) in the esophagus
  • Treatment: Home remedy with mild, occasional heartburn (baking soda, starchy foods, nuts, etc.). Medication for persistent or recurrent heartburn or reflux disease. Possibly. Surgery for reflux disease.
  • Prevention: remove obesity ; abstain from luxury foods and foods that promote heartburn (alcohol, nicotine, coffee, spicy foods, fatty and fried foods, etc.); relieve stress through sport and relaxation techniques

Heartburn: description

The signs of heartburn can be derived from the name: “Boiling” gastric contents rises in the esophagus and causes burning pain. Especially after greasy, rich food and alcohol occur the typical symptoms that cause the reflux of gastric contents:

  • Belching , especially from acid and chyme
  • burning pain behind the breastbone
  • Pressure in the upper abdomen

In some people, reflux is also noticeable by morning hoarseness , throat clearing or coughing . Reason: The rising gastric juice irritates the vocal cords and the pharyngeal mucosa.

If the stomach contents rise up into the oral cavity, this not only causes an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It can also permanently attack the enamel.

If heartburn occurs only occasionally, it is usually harmless. However, frequent reflux can be an indication of so-called reflux disease. Most of the lower esophageal sphincter is relaxed so that the stomach acid can easily rise to the top. Often wrong eating and living habits increase the reflux additionally.

Consequences of frequent heartburn

The reflux disease can evolve to the so-called reflux oesophagitis: It inflames the mucous membrane of the oesophagus (esophagus) due to the repeated contact with the highly rising gastric acid. Without treatment, a bleeding mucous ulcer (ulcer) may develop. In addition, the inflammatory processes can lead to scar-like strictures (strictures) of the esophagus . These bottlenecks hinder the transport of the chyme into the stomach. This can be noticeable in swallowing problems.

Another possible consequence of repeated heartburn in reflux disease is the so-called Barrett’s esophagus : The cells in the lower third of the esophagus are pathologically altered. Barrett’s esophagus is one of the precancerous lesions: it can develop into a malignant esophageal tumor ( esophageal cancer or esophageal carcinoma). This can happen when the delicate mucous membrane of the esophagus is repeatedly exposed to aggressive acid for years.

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