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Heartburn…beyond the burning sensation in your chests

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A 20-year old lady entered the doctor’s consulting room wearing a forlorn look.

Patient:-Good day doctor

Doctor:-Good day. How do I help you?

Patient:-I have a burning sensation in my chest and my aunty who is a medical student called it heartburn and advised me to see a doctor.

  Heartburn

If you have ever eaten spicy food or over indulged in a big meal, you will probably have the burning sensation in your chest or stomach.

Heartburn is often caused by acid and food coming back up from the stomach into the oesophagus, usually because the stomach is over loaded or irritated. This is called reflux. If this happens often, the acid in the food can cause the oesophagus to become irritated. This is called reflux oesophagitis, which can cause heartburn and pain while swallowing. Lying down after a meal or eating within one or two hours of bedtime may bring or increase heartburn.

Other causes of heartburn include gastritis and ulcer.

Heartburn symptoms

*A burning pain in the chest or upper abdomen.

*Belching an acidic fluid.

*Pain when you swallow.

At times, the pain can become intense, especially if you have a weakness in your diaphragm called a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia allows part of the stomach to push up into the chest, aggravating heartburn. This pain, along with the burning and irritation of heartburn, can produce great discomfort, even causing some people to think they are having a heart attack.

Heart attacks can cause a similar pain in the chest. Overweight people have more problems with the reflux of stomach contents into the oesophagus and are more likely to develop a hiatal hernia.

Most of the time, heartburn is caused by eating too much, by smoking or by drinking too many caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, colas or hot chocolate. Acidic juices, such as orange juice, may also cause discomfort.

Treatment

After listening to the symptoms, the doctor may simply begin treatment or may order an upper gastrointestinal series, a set of x-rays to look at the oesophagus, stomach and duodenum. An endoscope can be used to look directly into the oesophagus and stomach to see the linings of these two organs.

Special test can be performed on the oesophagus to detect increased spam or laxity as a possible source of the reflux that causes the pain.

To make sure no other cause of pain exist and to rule out heart attack, an electrocardiogram or chest x-ray may sometimes be done.

Treatment

Antacids (liquid or tablets) relieve most symptoms of heartburn. Proto pump inhibition may also be helpful. If the pain becomes chronic or severe, seek doctor’s assistance.

Note: Bland diets have not been shown to prevent heartburn. But avoid any food that seems to aggravate your symptoms. Alcohol and tobacco can worsen heartburn and should be avoided. Consider eating smaller meals four to six times a day instead of two to three larger meals.

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