Symptoms / Heartburn


Acid reflux leads to many diseases and out of them the most common GIT problem is “Heartburn”, a condition in which digestive acid escapes and rises up into your oesophagus. This regurgitation of stomach contents is due to decrease tone of the oesophageal sphincter. It leads to the characteristic
burning pain and sensation of heat in the lower part of the chest. Other symptoms include:

  • Burning and indigestion-like pain
  • Heat sensation in the middle of the chest
  • Foul, acrid taste in the mouth
  • Rising pain, possibly reaching the neck and jaw


There are multiple medical as well as non-medical causes of heartburn.

Medical Causes

  • Recurrent acid reflux
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Peptic Ulcer
  • Reflux Oesophagitis
  • Gastric tumours

Non-medical causes

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy

Test and Diagnosis

Most of the time, a physician only requires a thorough history and physical examination to make the differential diagnosis of heartburn. However, your doctor may suggest some additional tests as discussed below, to evaluate the severity and extent of damage to your oesophageal lining.
Endoscopy: a test done by using an endoscope to examine and take biopsies of the oesophageal lining, if indicated.
Upper GI series: X-rays are taken after drinking a fluid that coats the inner lining of the GI tract. It will show the outline and any damage to the digestive tract.
Ambulatory pH testing: Via a small tube, pH of the stomach and lower part of the oesophagus is measured by this test. Increased pH in the oesophagus is suggestive of heartburn.


Treatment of the heartburn includes lifestyle modifications and drug therapy.

Lifestyle changes

  • Keeping ideal weight/Weight loss
  • Diet modification
  • Quit smoking
  • Elevate the head of the bed or place an extra pillow to decrease reflux

Prescription medications

There are several prescriptions as well as over-the-counter medications available to treat heartburn. These include

  • Antacids (Mylanta, Maalox, Tums, Rolaids)
  • H-2 blockers (nizatidine [Axid], ranitidine [Zantac], famotidine [Pepcid], cimetidine [Tagamet])
  • Proton pump inhibitors (lansoprazole [Prevacid], Omeprazole [Prilosec])

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified doctor or other healthcare professional. ALWAYS check with your doctor if you have any concerns about your condition or treatment.

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Spire Dunedin Hospital

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0118 902 8161

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