You likely recognize the burning sensation in your chest following a big meal. Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is an uncomfortable feeling that occurs when acidic food or stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. Heartburn is one of the symptoms of gastrointestinal reflux, usually a short-term issue that’s easily controlled by avoiding certain foods, quitting smoking and losing weight.
Heartburn also may be a symptom of a more serious condition, however. While over-the-counter antacids may relieve your symptoms temporarily, if you experience heartburn frequently, you need to check with an experienced Manhattan gastroenterologist like Dr. Shawn Khodadadian. Dr. Khodadadian can diagnose the underlying cause of your acid indigestion and treat it properly. Here are three conditions that can cause heartburn:
GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease, is the most common cause of frequent heartburn. You might have GERD if you experience heartburn two or more times per week. If you have GERD, you’ll probably exhibit other symptoms beside heartburn, such as vomiting, a chronic dry cough, difficulty swallowing and hoarseness.
The condition is the result of a weakened valve between your stomach and esophagus that lets the acid back up, so controlling the food you eat doesn’t prevent the heartburn. Dr. Khodadadian, a doctor for GERD, relies on an upper endoscopy to diagnose GERD. If you have it, he can help you change your diet, provide medication or in the worst case, perform surgery. Without treatment from a GERD doctor, GERD can lead to other complications, including Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that can lead to throat cancer.
2. Hiatal Hernia
Pressure on your stomach from an injury or birth defect can cause a hiatal hernia. This condition happens when your stomach pushes through the opening, or hiatal, where your esophagus is attached. Food and acid can get pushed through the opening too, resulting in acid indigestion.
In addition to chronic heartburn, you may experience fatigue, difficulty swallowing and persistent belching. Most people just need to modify their lifestyle so that they lose weight — obesity being a key contributor to the condition. Surgery from an acid reflux doctor is recommended only when acid reflux medication doesn’t help.
Severe cases can lead to strangulation of the hernia, which cuts off the flow of blood to your stomach and requires emergency surgery. Other long-term complications of untreated hiatal hernias include Barrett’s esophagus and ulcers.
If the muscles in your stomach don’t function correctly, you may have gastroparesis. Often the result of damage to your vegas nerve, gastroparesis can be caused by diabetes, anorexia orbulimia, an infection, some medications, abdominal surgery or Parkinson’s disease. In addition to heartburn, you may experience bloating, lack of appetite, fluctuating blood sugar levels and weight loss.
Dr. Khodadadian relies first on an upper endoscopy to rule out other causes of the condition. A gastric-emptying study can help him verify gastroparesis, which to date has no cure. Instead, you’ll receive lifestyle counseling to change your diet, although medications may help as well.
Make an appointment at Manhattan Gastroenterology when your heartburn symptoms persist. Harmful bacteria left in your system can create havoc with your body and undigested food left in your stomach can lead to a life-threatening situation.