When to See Your Doctor About Heartburn

If you’ve experienced a burning pain in your chest that worsens after eating, at night, or if you bend over or lie down, you’ve probably had heartburn. This common problem affects more than 60 million Americans at least once a month and over 15 million each day.

Heartburn occurs when the acid in your stomach backs up into your esophagus. While having a bout of acid indigestion from time to time usually isn’t cause for concern, living with frequent or chronic heartburn can indicate a more serious problem and put you at risk of other health issues.

Under the leadership of experienced metabolic and bariatric surgeon Dr. Chad Carlton, our LoneStar Bariatrics team offers these insights into heartburn and when you should see a doctor about your symptoms.

Recognizing heartburn

You can develop heartburn for a variety of reasons, like eating certain foods; drinking alcohol, caffeine, or carbonated beverages; or eating larger fatty meals. Being overweight or pregnant also increases your chances of developing acid indigestion.

What sets heartburn apart from other digestive issues is the telltale burning sensation it causes in the chest, immediately behind your breastbone. Sometimes, these sensations can last for hours and also feel as though they:

These common symptoms are also very similar to those seen during a heart attack. If you have severe pain, pressure, squeezing, or constriction in your chest, always seek medical attention immediately to rule out heart-related issues, especially if you have difficulty breathing or pain in your jaw or arm.

The risks of heartburn

Heartburn occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter weakens or relaxes, allowing stomach acid to flow back into your esophagus. When left untreated, these stomach acids can cause serious damage to your esophagus and even put you at risk of Barrett’s esophagus — or precancerous changes in esophageal tissue. 

Signs that indicate esophageal damage include:

If you have heartburn symptoms at least twice a week, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The longer you go without treatment, the more serious your complications can become.

When to see a doctor

If you have sporadic heartburn symptoms, you probably don’t have cause for concern, especially if they respond quickly to over-the-counter acid reducers. However, you should schedule an appointment if you have:

You should also contact your doctor if you need over-the-counter medications two or more times a week or if your symptoms don’t respond to lifestyle changes or prescription medications.

Managing heartburn

Fortunately, there are several ways to get acid indigestion under control, ranging from lifestyle changes and medications to nonsurgical and surgical weight loss options.

At LoneStar Bariatrics, our experienced team takes a personalized approach to help you find the safest and most effective options available. If you have chronic heartburn and extra weight to lose, we can help you reach your weight loss goals, even if diet and exercise haven’t worked for you in the past.

For more information on heartburn and controlling your symptoms with medical weight-loss solutions, contact one of our offices in Frisco or Richardson, Texas, by calling or booking an appointment online today.

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