Gil I. Ascunce, MD
Gastroenterologist located in Midtown, New York, NY
Heartburn, often caused by acid reflux, is a common problem that can be brought on by anything from eating certain foods to a chronic medical condition. While heartburn occurs suddenly and can be very painful, it does not necessarily indicate that you are in immediate danger. Heartburn can usually be managed with antacids and some lifestyle modifications. To learn how to put heartburn behind you, make an appointment with board-certified gastroenterologist Gil I. Ascunce, MD. To talk about your symptoms and treatment options, call his New York City office in Manhattan on Madison Avenue or schedule an appointment online today.
Heartburn Q & A
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is just what it sounds like, a painful burning sensation that occurs in your chest, usually right behind your breastbone. Heartburn usually occurs after eating, in the late evening, when you lay down for bed, or when you bend over suddenly.
Occasional heartburn is extremely common and usually not cause for concern as it can be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. If you have heartburn regularly, and if it begins to interfere with your daily routine, then it could be a sign of something more serious, and you may have a chronic condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
What causes heartburn?
Heartburn is almost always caused by acid reflux. Your stomach is separated from your esophagus by a thin ring of muscle. Acid reflux occurs when this muscle is relaxed, and stomach acid has the opportunity to overflow into the lower portion of your esophagus.
Because your esophagus is not equally equipped as the stomach for protection from the corrosive effects of stomach acid, excessive exposure of the esophagus to the acidic fluid can cause pain and injure the esophagus. Over time, repeated exposure of the esophagus to acid can damage the lining of your esophagus and lead to a stricture, which is a narrowing of the esophagus that can cause difficulty swallowing food.
This repeated injury may also lead to a condition called Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a change in the lining of the esophageal wall that may increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
When should I see a doctor about my heartburn?
It is possible to mistake the early signs of a heart attack for a bad case of heartburn. You should seek immediate emergency help if your heartburn is accompanied by sudden or severe chest pain, lightheadedness, pain in your arm or jaw, or numbness in your extremities.
Heartburn can also be a sign of less dangerous conditions, and may cause complications on its own, so you should see Dr. Ascunce if you experience:
- Heartburn more than twice a week
- Heartburn that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications and antacids
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Weight loss or diminished appetite
While heartburn may seem like a trivial symptom, chronic heartburn and GERD can cause serious damage to your esophagus and diminish your quality of life substantially. See Dr. Ascunce about your symptoms to begin treating and managing them as soon as possible.
If you have any questions about heartburn, acid reflux, or treating your symptoms, call the office of Gil I. Ascunce, MD, or schedule an appointment online today.