Heartburn also called as acid indigestion is a not a life threatening disorder, but is a symptom causing discomfort or burning sensation in the chest. It is caused when the acid in the stomach flows backward into the food pipe or the esophagus. Often many individuals experience heart burn and condition may not be bothersome unless if it is the symptom of gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD).
When the food is swallowed, it passes down the esophagus and enters stomach. The distal end of esophagus is guarded by muscle tissue, lower esophageal sphincter, which allows the movement of food content down into stomach and prevents the re-entry of stomach content into esophagus. Improper functioning of LES because of any abnormalities or conditions may cause entry of acid-mixed food from stomach into esophagus causing heart burn.
Heart burn may become worse when you are lying down because it is easier for the stomach acid to enter the esophagus. Patients with diabetes and hiatal hernia may have more chances of having heartburn.
Other symptoms accompanying heart burn include difficulty in swallowing, chronic cough, pain, sore throat, dizziness and formation of ulcers in the esophagus. In more severe cases heartburn may result in loss of weight, dehydration and you may vomit blood or observe small amount of blood in the stool.
When the acid travels beyond the esophagus, it may result in bitter and sour taste, which is called as regurgitation which is commonly observed when you lie down or bend.
Exact cause for heart burn may be diagnosed using various tests such as upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy, upper GI series, esophageal manometry and 24-hour pH monitoring.
Surgery is the last treatment option considered if the medications are not providing heartburn relief. The surgery is called as fundoplication. This procedure involves tightening the LES muscle which prevents the acid from traveling backward to esophagus.