Advertisement

When should I see a doctor about heartburn?

People often dismiss heartburn as an ailment not to be taken seriously, but it's a symptom not to be ignored. Particularly severe heartburn, with chest pain or a persistent or acute ache, is similar to a heart attack. A chronic cough that accompanies heartburn is also a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and can damage the esophagus. Lastly, if you've been taking over-the-counter treatments for weeks for heartburn that occurs several times a week, you might need surgery. Heartburn that frequent can damage the esophagus, putting you at risk for a precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus or even esophageal cancer.

Infrequent heartburn can be treated by over-the-counter antacids. However, frequent heartburn can be a sign of a more serious disease such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), functional dyspepsia, gastritis or peptic ulcer disease. The most common is GERD, which is essentially chronic acid reflux, wherein the stomach acid has caused inflammation in the esophagus. It can be caused by abnormal relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, which normally holds the stomach closed. The changes caused by the acid reflux can be permanent or temporary. In general, if the burning sensation occurs after eating, wakes you from sleep or worsens with lying down or bending over, it is likely time to seek medical attention. Left untreated, GERD can lead to cellular changes called Barrett's esophagus, which is a precursor to esophageal cancer.

Continue Learning about GERD

When should I see a doctor for my acid reflux symptoms?
Spotsylvania Regional Medical CenterSpotsylvania Regional Medical Center
Consider seeing a physician if you’ve experienced symptoms like nausea, vomiting and difficulty swal...
More Answers
Do GERD and heartburn affect children differently than adults?
Diana MeeksDiana Meeks
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn are common in children and sometimes may be ove...
More Answers
How Can Acid Reflux Affect My Voice?
How Can Acid Reflux Affect My Voice?
What Is GERD?
What Is GERD?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.