Learning more about what heartburn feels like can help you figure out your next steps.
Heartburn may come with a scary name, but according to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), more than 60 million Americans experience the condition at least once a month, and studies suggest that more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms each day.
The condition comes with many symptoms, which can vary in degrees of intensity and frequency. Learning more about what heartburn feels like can help you, and potentially your doctor, figure out your next steps.
People suffering from heartburn will feel a burning pain in their chest, usually after eating and/or at night, and the pain tends to worsen when lying down or bending over, according to Mayo Clinic. This happens when stomach acid gets backed up in your esophagus, which is responsible for carrying food from your mouth to your stomach. Certain types of food — like spicy, citrusy and fatty meals — can trigger heartburn. Additional factors like being overweight or pregnant may contribute to heartburn in certain people, as well.
Occasional heartburn is fairly common and is usually not cause for concern. In fact, most cases of occasional heartburn can be treated with over-the-counter medications to minimize discomfort during bouts. Symptoms of occasional heartburn may last for several hours.
If your heartburn symptoms appear two or more days in one week, you could be suffering from frequent heartburn, according to the ACG. You can try a medication like Nexium 24HR, which helps your body produce less of the acid that’s causing your heartburn.
However, if your frequent heartburn is paired with any difficulty swallowing or weight loss, could be associated with more severe problems like gastrosophageal reflux disease, or GERD. If you experience any of these symptoms, or if your heartburn interferes with your ability to carry on your normal daily routine, see your doctor right away.
If you have any questions about your symptoms at all, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor. Be ready to provide her with as much information as possible about your case — when you first began experiencing symptoms, how severe they are, what foods or drinks seem to trigger them, if you have any nausea or vomiting, etc. — so that she can properly determine whether or not further testing is needed. Anything from an X-ray to an esophageal motility test could be used to help determine how severe your condition is and what the proper treatment will be, whether that’s lifestyle changes or a medication. Your doctor will help guide you through the best course of action.