Overview

This common condition is a painful irritation that occurs when food or liquid escapes the stomach and pushes upward into the esophagus.

Causes

The lower esophageal sphincter is a band of tissue between the lower esophagus and stomach that opens to allow food to pass into the stomach, then clamps tightly shut. Heartburn occurs when stomach acid pushes back up through this sphincter and splashes into the esophagus, irritating its thin lining. Certain foods, alcohol, medications, and pregnancy can cause heartburn.

Symptoms

Heartburn usually causes a burning pain in the chest that may move upward toward the neck. Sufferers may also experience a bitter or acid taste.

Treatment

Treatment options can include antacids, weight loss, and modification of diet or sleep habits. In severe cases, prescription medication may be required.