You've just enjoyed a big meal and are relaxing in front of the TV when it happens. A burning sensation begins to build in the upper abdomen, behind the breastbone, and makes your chest feel like it's on fire. The burning and pain may travel from your diaphragm all the way to your throat, and may be accompanied with a sour taste and the sensation of food re-entering your mouth.
You're suffering from severe heartburn.
Despite the name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It's a digestive problem that occurs when stomach acid comes into contact with the lining of the esophagus, causing irritation. Most people suffer from heartburn occasionally, usually after a meal. For others, heartburn occurs more often, and is considered chronic.
The following is a list of causes or underlying conditions that could possibly be the cause heartburn.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux disease, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and stomach contents leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus.
A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm, and up into the chest. This opening is called the esophageal hiatus or diaphragmatic hiatus.
Ulcers in the stomach are called gastric or stomach ulcers, and those in the duodenum are called duodenal ulcers, and both are usually referred to as peptic ulcers.
There are two sphincter muscles located in the esophagus: The lower esophageal sphincter and upper esophageal sphincter. When the lower esophageal sphincter is not functioning properly, there is a backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, and can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. If the upper esophageal sphincter doesn't function properly, acid is allowed into the throat and voice box. When this happens, it's called Laryngopharyngeal Reflux, or LPR.
Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty its contents.
Even for women who have never experienced it before, heartburn may occur for the first time while they are pregnant.
Studies have shown that approximately 75% of asthma patients also suffer from GERD. It has also been found that asthmatics are twice as likely to have GERD as non-asthmatics.