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Is heartburn ever serious?

Heartburn and reflux are extremely common, with 10 percent of the population experiencing them daily. Twenty-five percent of pregnant women have heartburn. Even though heartburn is common, it is rarely lifethreatening. Severe cases, however, can result in injury to the lower esophagus that requires treatment. If heartburn is severe or persistent and does not respond to medication, it could be a symptom of a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. If left untreated, GERD can cause or contribute to a wide range of problems such as inflammation and ulcers of the esophagus (called esophagitis). Some patients with esophagitis develop strictures (narrowing of the esophagus due to scar tissue) which can lead to problems swallowing food or pills. GERD can also contribute to asthma, pneumonia, hoarseness, chronic cough, abnormal functioning of larynx and dental problems. Additionally, people with GERD also have a higher risk of developing Barrett's esophagus, a condition marked by severe damage to the lining of the esophagus and possibly linked to an increased risk of cancer of the esophagus. Fortunately, both heartburn and the symptoms of GERD can be treated, and many of these complications can be avoided with proper monitoring from a physician.

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,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005