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Reverse heart disease

Heartburn doesn’t have to rule your day

It’s a common condition that can be downright painful. Don’t let it be the one in charge.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning pain in the chest or throat that often occurs after you eat. It’s a symptom of acid reflux, which happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. This burning sensation can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Its name is a little misleading — heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. Although it can be uncomfortable, heartburn is relatively easy to manage.


What does heartburn feel like?

Heartburn can feel different for you than it does for someone else. With heartburn, you may experience the following symptoms:
  • A pain or burning sensation in the center of your chest
  • Strong acid taste in your mouth or in the back of your throat
  • Sore throat or cough
  • Discomfort in your chest when you bend over or lie down
Because acidic or spicy foods can trigger heartburn, you may not experience these symptoms long term. In fact, heartburn can be temporary. But if you have heartburn more than twice a week or if it lasts more than two weeks, talk to your doctor so they can rule out a more serious condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD). 
 

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn is common and can be caused by many different things including:
  • Eating certain foods: Acidic, spicy or fatty foods and foods containing tomatoes, garlic, onions, citrus or chocolate are common triggers of indigestion and heartburn.
  • Being overweight: People who have excess body fat — especially around the waist area — are more likely to experience heartburn.
  • Other risk factors: Other things that increase the likelihood of heartburn include:
    • Certain over-the-counter medications, such as antihistamines or pain relievers
    • Pregnancy
    • Having a hiatal hernia
    • Drinking alcohol or carbonated beverages
    • Smoking

Diagnosing heartburn

Our experienced team of gastrointestinal (GI) specialists offers a variety of tests to detect heartburn. Tests your doctor may use to diagnose heartburn include:
  • GERD questionnaire: Your doctor may give you a brief screening questionnaire to find out whether you have acid reflux or GERD.
  • Endoscopy: Your doctor will use an endoscope — a long, thin tube with a camera on the end — to get a clear view of your digestive tract.
  • X-ray: This allows your doctor to see the condition of your stomach and esophagus and potentially rule out other causes of your symptoms.
  • 48-hour Bravo esophageal pH test: During this minimally invasive test, your doctor uses an endoscope to attach a small capsule to your esophagus. It measures pH levels in your throat to determine how much acid is backing up into your esophagus and how often. The capsule transmits that information to a small receiver you wear, which your doctor will analyze once the 48-hour window is over.

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How is heartburn treated?

Your team of highly trained GI specialists will work together to develop a personalized plan to best treat your heartburn. Depending on the type and severity of your heartburn, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments.

Lifestyle changes

There are several lifestyle changes your doctor may suggest to reduce your likelihood of having heartburn. These may include:
  • Quitting smoking – Smoking causes your body to produce excess stomach acid, which can lead to heartburn. Quitting smoking reduces the stomach acid — and heartburn.
  • Change in diet – Avoiding alcohol and greasy or acidic foods, and not eating before bed may help you avoid heartburn.
  • Losing weight – Losing even a few pounds helps reduce the pressure on your stomach, which lowers the likelihood of acid backing up into your esophagus.
Medication

Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medication, such as an acid blocker or antacid, to treat your heartburn.
Stretta® procedure

In this minimally invasive procedure, your doctor uses an endoscope to safely heat the muscles in your upper stomach with radiofrequency waves. This will thicken them, rebuilding the tissue barrier that prevents acid reflux.
BARRX™ radiofrequency ablation procedure

This minimally invasive procedure uses radiofrequency waves to safely remove tissue in your esophagus that’s been damaged by acid reflux.

Heartburn care at Geisinger 

Our team is dedicated to providing innovative treatments and personalized care centered around you. We offer:
  • The knowledge you need – Your care team is powered by gastroenterologists, surgeons, doctors and specialists with years of training and experience. Their expertise has been honed by treating many people with heartburn and GERD every year. And their focus is on delivering the care best suited to your needs.

  • Care designed for you, where you live – With locations throughout northeast, central and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care, backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system. 

  • Specialized GI procedures — Our experienced team offers leading-edge treatments for both common and complex GI issues, including the Barrx™ radiofrequency ablation system, Bravo™ test, Stretta® procedure and pH nasal probe.