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Heartburn FAQs

Heartburn FAQs Introduction

NOTE: The pain of heartburn can be confused with pain due to more serious heart problems, such as a heart attack. Indviduals need to be especially aware of this possibility if you or a family member has a history of heart disease. If a person has chest pain accompanied by sweating, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or pain that worsens with activity, should seek medical attention immediately.

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is an uncomfortable feeling of burning or warmth in the chest.

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. Instead, heartburn is caused by the upward movement of stomach acid into the esophagus. Heartburn is sometimes called acid indigestion.

What is stomach acid?

Stomach acid is strong acid produced by the stomach to help digest the foods people eat. Normally the acid stays in the stomach. When the acid backs up into the esophagus, it burns and causes the uncomfortable sensation known as heartburn (the cause of heartburn is gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Picture of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Picture of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

What is the esophagus?

The esophagus is the muscular tube that stretches between the mouth and the stomach. The foods we eat and the liquids we drink travel down the esophagus into the stomach.

Why doesn't the acid burn my stomach?

The stomach has a special lining to protect it from the acid. The esophagus doesn't have this protection.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/2/2014
Medical Editor:

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease »

Gastroesophageal reflux is a normal physiological phenomenon experienced intermittently by most people, particularly after a meal.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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