Heartburn is a feeling of burning, warmth, heat, or pain that often
starts in the upper abdomen just beneath the lower breastbone (sternum). This
discomfort may spread in waves upward into your throat, and you may have a sour
taste in your mouth. Heartburn is sometimes called indigestion, acid
regurgitation, sour stomach, or pyrosis. It is not caused by problems with your
heart, although sometimes heart problems can feel like heartburn. See a picture
of heartburn .
Heartburn may cause problems
with swallowing, burping, nausea, or bloating. These symptoms can sometimes
last up to 2 hours or longer. In some people, heartburn symptoms may cause
sleep problems, a chronic cough,
asthma, wheezing, or choking episodes.
Heartburn usually is worse after eating or made worse by lying down or bending
over. It gets better if you sit or stand up.
Almost everyone will
have troubles with heartburn now and then.
Heartburn occurs more
frequently in adults than in children. Many women have heartburn every day when
they are pregnant. This is because the growing uterus puts increasing upward
pressure on the stomach.
Symptoms of heartburn and
symptoms of a heart attack may feel the same.
Sometimes your heartburn symptoms may mean a more
serious problem and need to be checked by your doctor.
is a medical term that is used to describe a vague feeling of fullness,
gnawing, or burning in the chest or upper belly, especially after eating. A
person may describe this feeling as "gas." Other symptoms may occur at the same
time, such as belching, rumbling noises in the abdomen, increased flatus, poor
appetite, and a change in bowel habits.
Causes of dyspepsia can vary from minor to
Causes of heartburn
Heartburn occurs when food and
stomach juices back up (reflux) into the esophagus,
which is the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach. This process is
called gastroesophageal reflux . Common causes of reflux
- Incomplete closing of the valve (the
lower esophageal sphincter, or LES) between the
esophagus and the stomach.
- Foods and
drinks, such as chocolate, peppermint, fried foods, fatty foods, sugars, coffee, carbonated drinks, and alcohol. After heartburn occurs, the backflow of
stomach juices can cause the esophagus to become sensitive to other foods, such
as citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, garlic, and onions. Eating these foods
may cause more heartburn.
- Pressure on the stomach caused by
obesity, frequent bending over and lifting, tight clothes, straining with bowel
movements, vigorous exercise, and pregnancy.
- Smoking and use of
other tobacco products.
- Prescription and nonprescription
medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, prednisone,
iron, potassium, antihistamines, and sleeping pills.
hiatal hernia , which occurs when a small portion of the stomach pushes upward
through the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates the lungs from the
- Stress, which can increase the amount
of acid your stomach makes and cause your stomach to empty more slowly.
Severity of heartburn