Heartburn Worry: Serious or Not?
What you need to know about heartburn -- when to worry, when not, what to do.
When Should Someone See a Doctor About Heartburn?
Galier says if you are reaching for antacids more days than not, you should
see your doctor.
Eisen considers heartburn "occasional" if it occurs once a week or
less. He says it’s time to seek medical help if you have had heartburn more
than once a week for six months or longer more and are not getting better.
How Does the Doctor Evaluate Heartburn?
Your doctor may order several different tests and take the following steps
to evaluate persistent heartburn that hasn't gone away even after you modify
factors such as your diet:
- Your doctor may ask for an EKG to help rule out heart-related
- Your doctor will perform an examination to see if you have any abdominal
mass or a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the
stomach and the LES move above the diaphragm.
- Your doctor will check your blood pressure.
- Your doctor will take a careful medical history to see if medications are
causing the problem.
- Your doctor may ask for a gastric emptying study to see how fast food goes
out of your stomach or a test to show how well the esophagus and the LES
- Your doctor may refer you for an upper endoscopy. In this test, a flexible
tube with a tiny camera helps the doctor assess the esophagus and look for
damage or abnormalities.
How Is Heartburn Treated?
If you have uncomplicated heartburn from acid reflux, your doctor may
prescribe over-the-counter or prescription medicines. These include common
antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Tums. Your doctor may also
prescribe more powerful medications called proton pump inhibitors, such as
Aciphex, Nexium, Prilosec, and Protonix. These medicines are considered very
effective and help heal the esophageal lining. Other drugs like Tagamet and
Pepcid reduce acid production, while still others like Reglan help empty the
Lifestyle modification, such as cutting down on foods that trigger your
heartburn, can help. So can avoiding heavy meals, not eating a big meal within
two hours of bedtime, and not lying down soon after a meal. Stress reduction
may help reduce heartburn incidents. If you smoke, you should quit, as it can
be a heartburn trigger.