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What is heartburn?

Heartburn is characterized by a burning sensation behind the breastbone that can extend into the chest and throat, and sometimes even radiate into the back between the shoulder blades. Symptoms often occur after eating but can also manifest at any time of the day or night.

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Causes of Heartburn

While heartburn is commonly associated with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), where excess acid triggers specific receptors in the oesophageal wall, it can also occur in other conditions such as oesophageal hypersensitivity. In oesophageal hypersensitivity, normal stimuli can cause symptoms due to an increased number or sensitivity of these receptors.

Symptoms and Presentation

Patients experiencing heartburn may describe a sensation of burning or discomfort in the chest and throat. The discomfort may worsen after eating or when lying down, and can sometimes be relieved by sitting upright or taking antacids. Heartburn may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as regurgitation, nausea, or a sour taste in the mouth.

Management and Treatment

Treatment for heartburn often involves lifestyle modifications such as avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller meals, and maintaining a healthy weight. Over-the-counter medications such as antacids or acid reducers can provide temporary relief, while prescription medications may be necessary for more severe cases. In some instances, surgical intervention may be recommended to address the underlying causes of reflux.

Seeking Medical Advice

Persistent or severe symptoms should prompt a consultation with a healthcare professional. A thorough evaluation can help determine the underlying cause of heartburn and guide appropriate treatment to alleviate discomfort and prevent complications.

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