Symptoms of Heartburn
Heartburn is estimated to affect about 15 million Americans on a daily basis, while additional 60 million of people in the USA experience heartburn at least once every month.
In most cases, persistent heartburn is the result of a medical condition known as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. This condition is also called acid reflux, since it is caused by the reflux of the stomach content to the esophagus. GERD is usually caused by the problem in the lower esophageal sphincter. It normally closes off the stomach from the esophagus and there is no mixing of the stomach content with esophagus. But, when this sphincter doesn’t shut properly, digestion enzymes, along with the stomach acid and other ingredients of the stomach go back to the esophagus and attack the lining. As the result, people suffering from this condition experience heartburn symptoms.
Discomfort and burning of the chest or the throat are some of the most common GERD symptoms. Patients often notice the bitter or sour taste in throat, along with indigestion or dry recurrent coughing. Voice can also be altered because of the GERD, and people can experience hoarseness or globus pharyngis (lump at the back of the throat) as well.
Many times, there are different painful sensations in these patients. They may complain about the ear pain (otalgia) or chest pain, and many people become extremely afraid that heartburn pains are actually the signs of a heart attack.
Acid reflux must not be ignored and left untreated because it may cause serious health implications. Unattended GERD may lead to development of peptic stricture, which is the condition when the lower end of esophagus becomes narrow, due to the injury and formation of scar tissue on that place. Patients often feel as if there is some food blocked in the lower portion of their throat and they tend to eat less because of this discomfort. As the result their body mass starts to decrease and it is not rare to see GERD patients who lose body mass.
Another problem that might further complicate acid reflux disease is Barrett’s esophagus condition. In this case, esophageal lining starts to grow more cells, to defend from the attack of the stomach acid. It may not be fatal complication of the GERD, but 1 of 50 patients suffering from this complication is expected to develop lethal carcinoma, called adenocarcinoma and that’s why this problem is very serious.