Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Overview of Heartburn
- Heartburn Causes
- Heartburn Symptoms
- Heartburn Diagnosis
- Heartburn Treatment
- Heartburn Summary
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition in which heartburn is a symptom. Stomach acid refluxes up into esophagus and causes pain. This pain can be felt as a burning sensation behind the sternum or breastbone, either as a spasm or a sharp pain. Many times the pain of acid reflux can be mistaken for the pain of a heart attack.
The pain of acid reflux (heartburn) can remain in the lower chest or it can radiate to the back of the throat and be associated with waterbrash, a sour taste in the back of the throat. If there is acid reflux near the larynx (voicebox) in the throat, it may cause coughing episodes or hoarseness. Reflux over prolonged periods of time can be severe enough that acid wears away the enamel on teeth and causes decay.
Symptoms are often worsened after heavy meals, leaning forward, or lying flat. Those affected may often awaken from sleep with heartburn.
Heartburn is not without complications. If ignored, recurrent irritation and inflammation of the esophagus can lead to ulcers, which are small areas of tissue breakdown. These can cause serious bleeding.
As well, scarring and stricture are other significant complications of GERD. Changes in the type of cells lining the esophagus may result from acid reflux, causing a condition known as Barrett's esophagus, which is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Next: Heartburn Diagnosis
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