Indigestion, Acid or Heartburn

Abdomen | Gastroenterology | Indigestion, Acid or Heartburn (Symptom)


Heartburn, also known as pyrosis, cardialgia, or acid indigestion is a burning sensation in the chest, just behind the breastbone or in the epigastrium. The pain often rises in the chest and may radiate to the neck, throat, or angle of the jaw. Heartburn is often brought on by lying down or bending forwards.


It may be caused by eating rich or spicy food, or by drinking alcohol. Recurrent heartburn is a symptom of oesophagitis, which is usually caused by gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). It however may also be a symptom of ischemic heart disease. It is also common in pregnant women, and may be triggered by consuming food in large quantities, or specific foods containing certain spices, high fat content, or high acid content.

If the chest pain is suspected to be heartburn, patients may undergo an upper GI series to confirm the presence of acid reflux. Heartburn or chest pain after eating or drinking and combined with difficulty swallowing may indicate oesophageal spasms.

Heartburn symptoms: a burning sensation in the chest (usually occurs shortly after eating, and can last from a few minutes to several hours), a burning feeling in the throat (can result from irritation when stomach contents reflux up into the throat), sour or bitter taste in the mouth (can occur when stomach contents reflux up into the oesophagus and may reach the back of the throat), chronic coughing (if stomach acid refluxes into the oesophagus and is inhaled), wheezing or other asthma-like symptoms.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The treatment of heartburn depends on the underlying cause. Medicines such as H2 receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors are effective for gastritis and GERD, the two most common causes of heartburn. Antibiotics are used if H. pylori are present.


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