Occasional heartburn is often treatable with over-the-counter medication and/or lifestyle modification.
Your heartburn may be caused by a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD. Here are questions to answer if you think you might have GERD:
- Have you been treating heartburn with over-the-counter medicines for more than 2 weeks?
- Has the pattern of your heartburn changed? Is it worse than it used to be?
- Do your symptoms include regurgitation -- bringing up gas and small amounts of food from your stomach to your mouth?
- Do you wake up at night with heartburn?
- Have you been having any difficulty swallowing?
- Do you continue to have heartburn symptoms even after taking non-prescription medication?
- Do you experience hoarseness or worsening of asthma after meals, lying down, or exercise, or asthma that occurs mainly at night?
- Are you experiencing unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite?
- Do your heartburn symptoms interfere with your lifestyle or daily activity?
- Are you in need of increasing doses of nonprescription medicine to control heartburn?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your heartburn warrants attention from a medical professional. People with long-standing chronic heartburn are at greater risk for serious complications including stricture (narrowing) of the esophagus or a potentially precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus.