Last Updated on Monday, 19 October 2009 10:47
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Heartburn is a burning feeling in the lower chest. Despite its name it hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t got anything to do with the heart.
Heartburn is an uncomfortable sensation of burning in the chest as if it is on fire. Research reveals that more than 30% of the adult population experiences heartburn occasionally, while 10% experience heartburn daily. Also, about 25% women experience heartburn during pregnancy.
What is Heartburn?
Heartburn is a burning sensation in your food pipe, known as the oesophagus, and is usually felt below or behind your breastbone. It may occur occasionally, regularly and/or even daily.
The lower part of your oesophagus (food pipe) has a circular band of muscle that goes around it. This is known as the lower oesophageal sphincter. This sphincter relaxes whenever food and liquid flow down into your stomach and tightens around the oesophagus when there is no movement of food or liquid. When the sphincter weakens or begins to relax abnormally, acid from your stomach can flow upwards into your oesophagus, causing heartburn.
Causes of Heartburn
Although it is quiet common and seems to occur occasionally, the burning sensation has nothing to do with your heart. The sensation arises from the food pipe (oesophagus), just below or behind your breastbone, and is caused by the presence of stomach acid in the food pipe.
Symptoms of Heartburn
Heartburn is characterized by a persistent and gnawing burning sensation in the chest. If the symptoms persist, it could imply a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a disease in which bile or stomach acid flows back (refluxes) into your oesophagus. This could lead to further complications such as ulcers in the oesophagus or cancer.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Heartburn
Frequent or severe heartburns interfere with your daily activities. You may find comfort in diet and over-the-counter medications. But if heartburn is severe, you will need proper medical attention. If you are diagnosed with GERD, you may also need to consider surgery.
Self-Help Tips & Preventive Measures
Preventive and self-care measures may help in transient and mild cases of heartburn. These include several dietary and lifestyle changes.