Heartburn is a burning sensation in the lower chest (behind breastbone), along with a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth.
It usually occurs after eating a big meal or while lying down. Contrary to the name, heartburn does not affect the heart
What causes heartburn?
After a nice meal, food passes from your mouth down a tube (about 25 cm long in most people) called the esophagus. Before it enters the stomach, the food must pass through an opening between the esophagus and stomach. This opening acts like a door to allow food to pass into the stomach.
Usually, this opening closes as soon as food passes through. But if it doesn’t close all the way, acid from your stomach can get through the opening and back into your esophagus. This is called acid reflux. Stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) then irritates the esophagus and causes the burning sensation or heartburn
When to see a doctor
Heartburn in most people just goes away without any medication. However it is necessary to seek medical help if you experience one or more of the following
- Severe chest pain, especially when combined with other signs and symptoms such as difficulty breathing. Chest pain may be a symptom of a heart attack.
- Heartburn occurs more than twice a week
- Symptoms persist despite use of over-the-counter medications
- You have difficulty swallowing