Almost everyone had heartburn at some point. More than 60 million Americans suffer from it regularly. Heartburn is caused by lose valve between our stomach and esophagus (the tube between the stomach and the throat), which allows the food, together with stomach acid, to back up. If it burns like heartburn, feels like heartburn, we normally think that it is heartburn, gulp a couple of Tums and go on our merry way. But, sometimes the same burning feeling in the chest and throat is more than just heartburn and it requires medical help, before it turns into something nasty. There is a range of health issues that show the same symptoms as common heartburn.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is chronic heartburn, heartburn that is almost daily occurrence. It is commonly the result of permanent damage of the esophagus valve. It is usually enough to adapt our diet to avoid foods that trigger it. Antacids help too.
Peptic ulcer often starts with heartburn. People with peptic ulcer have sores in the lining of the stomach and small intestine, made by stomach juices. Peptic ulcers are caused by over-production of acid or mucus, commonly caused by a bacteria or the abuse of pain killers and some other medication.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of any part of the digestive system. It causes ulcers and inflammation in the deep layers of the lining of the digestive system. Besides heartburn, people with Crohn”s disease experience diarrhea, stomach pain, fever and loss of appetite. Crohn”s disease is caused by the compromised immune system, genetics, some foods and many other, still unknown, causes. Crohn”s disease can be very serious and if you have a suspicion that you are suffering from it, do not wait, see your doctor.
Infections of the esophagus caused by the herpes virus, HIV or cytomegalovirus also cause heartburn.
Esophagitis is the inflammation of the esophagus lining, commonly caused by certain medications. Besides other symptoms, it causes heartburn.
Hiatal hernia, caused by part of the stomach pushing through the diaphragm into the chest, causes severe heartburn.
Heart attack is sometimes confused with heartburn, as it starts with the same burning in the chest. If your heartburn is accompanied with tightness in the chest, fever, pain spreading to your neck, back, jaw, shoulders or your left arm, go immediately to the emergency unit in your local hospital. Even if you made a mistake and it is only heartburn, it is better to make that mistake than to die of a heart attack because of potential embarrassment of making a mistake.
This is just a short list of health problems that might cause heartburn. Hopefully the list scares you enough to see your doctor instead of self-diagnosing and self-medicating.