Severe heartburn or chronic heartburn or gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) is a more serious case than the occasional heartburn which brings about chest pains and throat irritation that usually go away within a few hours. Chronic heartburn has longer lasting symptoms that are not necessarily caused by certain types of foods. Severe heartburn episodes can be frequent and some people suffer from heartburn that never seems to go away. If your symptoms become bad enough as to affect your sleeping and daily activities, it is time to consult a physician and find out about different treatment options.
Heartburn occurs when stomach acids enter the esophagus. There is a muscle sphincter at the base of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which allows foods to enter the stomach and contracts to prevent acid going up to the esophagus. If an individual has severe heartburn, the LES won’t contract properly and acid will accumulate on the esophagus inflaming and irritating the lining. The esophagus will then tighten, swell and become tender. Sphincter dysfunction is usually caused by genetic abnormalities however, fatty diets, obesity, blood pressure and alcohol can make the condition worse.
Symptoms of Severe Heartburn
Chronic heartburn can cause really painful burning sensations and chest tightness which are worst when lying down. An individual suffering from severe heartburn may also experience difficulty in swallowing and acids may be regurgitated into the back of the mouth resulting to a very foul taste. Other symptoms include pain when swallowing, vomiting and throat pain, persistent hoarseness, wheezing and coughing. If these symptoms are felt too frequently, there is a great chance that you are suffering from gastrointestinal reflux disease.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you are experiencing the symptoms of severe heartburn, speak with your doctor and find out what treatment options are available for you. Your doctor will usually perform a series of diagnostic tests to ensure that a more serious underlying problem is not involved. In some cases, an endoscopic procedure is necessary to inspect the lining of the esophagus and check for ulcers and tumors. Another test called barium esophagogram involves swallowing some barium and then undergoing x-rays. Your doctor will trace the path of the barium to see if it backs up through the LES.
The doctor can provide medications after confirming diagnosis to help lessen the frequency of episodes and ease the symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe histamine blockers to help calm the inflammatory response in the esophagus and ease the burning and swelling. Prokinetics, drugs that encourage sphincter constriction may also be given to help minimize stomach acid reflux.
Along with medication, your physician will most like ask you as well to avoid alcohol and heartburn causing foods, exercise properly and to eat your several hours before going to bed. In cases of severe heartburn, surgery is often unnecessary however if the LES or esophagus is seriously damaged, a surgical procedure may be called for.