Heartburn or acid indigestion is a burning pain in the chest, just behind the breastbone. Occasional heartburn is common and not dangerous. In fact, more than 15 million people experience heartburn each day in the U.S. Heartburn symptoms can include an uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest, which can be accompanied by a sour taste at the back of the throat.
What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn is caused when the lower esophageal sphincter, a group of muscles at the end of the esophagus, does not open or close correctly. Most frequently, heartburn is experienced as a result of overeating or pressure on the stomach, which can come from obesity, pregnancy or constipation.
Heartburn and Its Connection to GERD
While infrequent heartburn is not problematic, if you experience it more than twice a week, it may be a symptom of a medical condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux. Impacting more than 20 percent of Americans, GERD occurs when stomach acids rise into the esophagus. The most common indicator of GERD is heartburn. Other symptoms of GERD may include acid regurgitation, chronic cough or hoarseness. If treated, acid reflux may not cause health complications. Unfortunately, approximately 10% of people who experience chronic symptoms of GERD will develop complications like Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition affecting the lining of the esophagus.
What You Can Do
To achieve heartburn relief, start by making simple lifestyle and diet changes. If you believe you may be experiencing indicators of GERD, speak to your doctor for more information about the condition, how to better ease your symptoms and learn more about the latest esophageal precancer screening and monitoring options available.