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What causes heartburn?

Heartburn typically occurs after eating a large meal or drinking a lot of alcohol. Some people get heartburn when they bend over or lie down. The frequency of stomach acid reflux varies from one person to another. For most people, it happens very

rarely. But weekly or daily incidents of heartburn or acid regurgitation may occur.

Heartburn is the most common symptom of a condition called gastroesophageal reflux or acid reflux. A sphincter (specialized muscle), known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), is located at the end of the esophagus and opens during swallowing to allow food to pass into the stomach. The LES muscle then closes quickly to prevent the return (reflux) of food and stomach juices back into the esophagus.

However, the LES muscle does not always work perfectly. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES muscle either relaxes inappropriately or is weak. This allows stomach juices to back up, or reflux, into the esophagus, creating heartburn. When the acid contents from the stomach regularly back up into the esophagus, a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs. Heartburn is sometimes called acid indigestion and usually occurs after meals. In addition to heartburn, symptoms of acid reflux may include persistent sore throat, hoarseness, chronic cough, asthma, heart-like chest pain and a feeling of a lump in the throat.

More information on heartburn

What is heartburn? - Heartburn (pyrosis) is a painful burning sensation in the chest caused by gastroesophageal reflux (backflow from the stomach irritating the esophagus).
What causes heartburn? - Heartburn is caused by stomach acids entering the esophageus (the food tube from the mouth to stomach) and burning the sides.
What are the risk factors for heartburn? - Risk factors for heartburn include hiatus hernia, obesity, pregnancy, large meal portions, and lying down.
What're heartburn symptoms? - Heartburn is a pain behind the breast bone, often described as burning in quality. Pain from the heart is also felt in the chest.
Is heartburn ever serious? - Severe heartburn can result in injury to the lower esophagus that requires treatment. Heartburn could be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
How to relieve heartburn? - The patient needs to take following measures to control and relieve heatburn. Avoid lying down right after eating and within two to three hours of bedtime.
What heartburn medications are available? - One of the simplest ways to relieve heartburn is to neutralise the acid with an antacid. H2 antagonists include medicines such as cimetidine, ranitidine, nizatadine and famotidine. 
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005, health-cares.net, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005