Heartburn is a common annoyance. The busy lifestyle, quick meals, fatty or spicy foods all contribute to the occasional need of a chewable pain reliever. The acceptance of heartburn as an inconvenient, but natural, part of the daily grind can blind you to the warning that a severe heartburn symptom can bring.
Heartburn as a Disorder
Heartburn can be a symptom as well as a disorder. Simple heartburn can be controlled and dealt with. However, heartburn can signal the presence of a much more serious problem. If it’s heartburn, you will have a burning sensation in the chest usually after eating. There may be a spread of the burning to the throat, sometimes accompanied by a bad taste, difficulty in swallowing, belching, coughing, hoarseness and/or wheezing.
It can become worse by lying down or bending over or by eating. Relief can come from an antacid. While the more severe heartburn symptoms may be mistaken for a heart attack, simple heartburn is usually not made worse by exercise. If there is any concern that the pain may signal a heart attack, get help quickly.
Heartburn as a Symptom
When the severe heartburn symptom is persistent and is accompanied by chest pain, morning hoarseness, trouble swallowing, a feeling of something stuck in the throat, a choking sensation, bad breath and/or a persistent dry cough, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
If the severe heartburn symptom is accompanied by a backflow of stomach contents into the back of the throat or esophagus, vomiting, a bad taste, frequent belching or hiccups, chest pain or pressure, a bloated feeling, abdominal discomfort or pressure after eating, gas, discomfort in the stomach or esophagus, coughing and/or difficulty swallowing, then you may be getting warnings of a hiatal hernia.
When the severe heartburn symptom is accompanied by difficulty swallowing, the inability to swallow solid foods worsening to the inability swallowing liquids, pain with swallowing, food sticking in the esophagus, loss of weight, regurgitation of undigested food, and/ or vomiting blood, get to a doctor to test for esophageal cancer.
As you can see many of these disorders have symptoms in common. The severe heartburn symptom can also be a sign of peptic ulcers, gastritis, gastroparesis (especially for diabetics) or the rare Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome. If your severe heartburn symptom has other, more worrisome symptoms with it, see your doctor. Worrying about it can make your heartburn worse.