- Posted August 11, 2013 by
Heartburn- Signs for Medical Attention
Almost all people experience heartburn at some point in life. This is perhaps due to different foods we eat including grilled meat farandoles. In most cases, the heartburn is temporary and usually resolves on its own. No treatment is needed aside from some steps to relieve the discomfort it causes. However, there are times when heartburn is a precursor to more serious diseases or problems and is a threat to you daily healthy diet. Thus it is important to know when a heartburn is or is not just a typical episode specially after eating greasy foods. Here are some steps to help you know when it is time to seek medical attention for your heartburn.
Compare the severity of the current heartburn episode to the severity of previous ones. Try to describe it. Is the pain dull or sharp? Is it constantly there or is it intermittent? Does it stay on one place or does it radiate to another part of the body, like the shoulders or the lower jaw? The intensity and severity of the pain can be an indicator that it is something more concerning than heartburn. For example, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) may feel like a very severe heartburn.
- If you are short of breath, dizzy, and sweaty; and if the pain radiates to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, or jaw, go to the nearest hospital. You may be having a heart attack.
- Read more about how to recognize a heart attack, so that you can be aware of the differences between heartburn and heart attack symptoms.
Be aware that medications for some heart conditions can cause acid reflux or heartburn. Where you are experiencing frequent, ongoing heartburn as a result of taking medication, and you suspect that the medications are the cause, talk with your physician about the possibility of replacing them.
- The medications implicated in bringing about heartburn include Calcium Channel Blockers like Norvasc (amlodipine) and Adalat (nifedipine), and also nitrate drugs like Nitroglycerin, which is commonly used to treat chest pain.
Be aware that a persistent cough may mean heartburn and gastroesophagal reflux. If you have cough that lasts two weeks or more, it is time to see the doctor. You may even want to get checked earlier, especially if you experience things like breathlessness and wheezing.
If you're pregnant, realize that heartburn can be a common occurrence. This may be caused by food not being digested as quickly as usual and part of the solution can be to eat smaller meals and not bending or lying flat for several hours following a meal. Antacids can be taken but avoid using baking soda because its salt levels are too high. However, if you have any concerns that the heartburn you're experiencing during pregnancy is causing too much pain or is inhibiting your ability to get around, see your physician.
Monitor the duration and frequency of the heartburn symptoms. An occasional heartburn that resolves on its own after a short period of time does not warrant a visit to the doctor. However, if you experience heartburn several times a week for more than two weeks, it is a good idea to get a medical check-up, in order to rule out any underlying causes and to get effective treatment. There are a number of possibilities behind constant heartburn that you definitely want ruled out or treated:
- Inflammation of the esophagus: Also known as "esophagitis", this can cause bleeding in both what is coughed or vomited up, and in your stools.
- Esophagal ulcers: These are open sores on the lining of the esophagus. Repeated reflux can cause these and they cause a pain similar to heartburn.
- Narrowing of the esophagus: This makes swallowing food difficult, and you can experience shortness of breath and wheezing. In this case you may also experience chest pain, sore throat, hoarseness, excessive salivation, a sensation of having a lump in your throat (globus sensation), and sinusitis.
- Barrett's esophagus: Constant heartburn puts you at risk of developing Barrett's esophagus. This is the development of abnormal pre-cancerous cells which may in turn develop into esophageal cancer. If the doctor discovers this, you will need to have an endoscopic examination every 2 to 3 years to ensure that it hasn't turned cancerous.
Note changes in your ability to swallow. If you suddenly have trouble swallowing food, it may be a sign that your esophagus has been damaged (most likely by the gastric acid that goes up into the esophagus), seek medical attention. Difficulty swallowing puts you at risk of choking.