Heartburn is a burning pain in the chest, just behind the breastbone. The pain is often worse when lying down or bending over.
Occasional heartburn is not unusual, and is not cause for alarm. Many people can manage the discomfort of heartburn on their own with simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. Your family physician has probably been able to help manage your condition effectively for a while.
When heartburn is more frequent or interferes with your daily routine, it may be a symptom of a more serious condition. You may require specialized medical care, more than an increased dose of medication, because sometimes medications just aren’t enough.
Symptoms of heartburn include:
- A burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating and may occur at night
- Pain that worsens when lying down or bending over
- Trouble sleeping
- Gas, bloating
- Intolerance of certain foods
- Trouble swallowing
- Respiratory problems
When to go to the ER:
Seek immediate help if you experience severe chest pain or pressure, especially when combined with other signs and symptoms, such as pain in the arm or jaw or difficulty breathing. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between severe heartburn and more serious cardiac problems.
When to see a specialist:
- Heartburn occurs more than twice a week
- Symptoms persist despite the use of over-the-counter or prescribed medications
- You have difficulty swallowing
- You have persistent nausea or vomiting
- You have weight loss because of poor appetite or difficulty eating
- You are tired of avoiding certain foods and relying on medications
- You are concerned about the side effects from certain medications