Heartburn is a very common complaint and is the discomfort, or burning sensation often felt behind the chest bone. Other terms used for the same condition include indigestion and acid reflux. Heartburn / Barrett's oesophagus symptoms typically occur after food and in particular fatty foods and irritating foods such as citrus fruit, vinegar and alcohol.
This article on heartburn & Barrett's oesophagus is written by Matthew Banks, Consultant Gastroenterologist, UCLH, London.
At least one in three of the population suffers from mild heartburn at some stage of their lives, however for a few the condition can be debilitating and ruin lives. Occasionally, people can suffer from symptoms affecting the throat including a hoarse voice, constant mucous throat clearing and a persistent dry cough.
What causes heartburn?
Heartburn results from the reflux of the stomach contents up into the gullet (oesophagus). The stomach is very acidic and the acid causes damage and irritation to the lower gullet, which can sometimes be severe resulting in inflammation, ulcers and scarring with narrowing.
Do I need any tests for heartburn?
Normally, unless there are other symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, a loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss, heartburn does not need any further tests. Sometimes an endoscopy is necessary and special physiology tests measuring the muscles in the gullet and the amount of acid refluxing from the stomach into the oesophagus.