Heartburn Symptoms

Common Symptoms of Heartburn

If you've got a burning feeling in your chest just behind your breastbone that starts after you eat, it might be heartburn. The symptoms could last from a few minutes to several hours.

Heartburn begins when stomach acid splashes up into your esophagus, a tube that connects the back of your throat and stomach. Besides the burning feeling in your chest, you may also get:

  • Chest pain, especially after you bend over, lie down, or eat
  • Burning at the back of your throat
  • Fluid at the back of your throat that tastes hot, sour, acidic, or salty
  • Long-term cough, sore throat, or hoarseness

Telling your doctor about these symptoms is usually all they need to make a diagnosis of heartburn. But they may ask you to take special tests to find out how severe the problem is or to keep an eye on your treatment.

Heartburn vs. Heart Attack Symptoms

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Chest pain is one of the most common reasons to go to the emergency room. While many of these people are having angina or a heart attack, some folks may have severe heartburn.

Often, the pain from angina, a heart attack, or a severe heartburn episode are so hard to tell apart that doctors need sophisticated tests to figure out what's going on.

To complicate things even more, angina/heart disease and heartburn share risk factors of being older or overweight.

Signs more typical of heartburn include:

  • You have a sharp, burning feeling just below your breastbone or ribs.The chest pain can be accompanied by an acidic taste in your mouth, regurgitation of food, or a burning in your throat.
  • Pain generally doesn't spread to your shoulders, neck, or arms, but it can.
  • Pain usually comes after meals, particularly after foods or drinks that trigger reflux in you.
  • Pain also comes when you lie down or exercise on a full stomach.
  • Symptoms usually get better quickly after taking an antacid.
  • You rarely get a cold sweat or shortness of breath along with your other symptoms.

Emergency Symptoms

If you have pain in your chest that's not going away and you're not sure whether it's heartburn or a heart attack, call 911.

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But don't forget, the symptoms of heart attack and heartburn can sometimes go away after a while. So always call your doctor if you had pain in your chest and you're not sure why -- even if it stopped.

Also, call 911 if you have symptoms that are more typical of a heart attack or angina (severe chest pain from heart problems), such as:

  • Feeling of fullness, tightness, or dull pressure or pain generally in the center of your chest
  • Feeling like a belt is being tightened around your chest
  • Pain that comes on with exercise, and is relieved by rest
  • Sudden chest pain or pressure that gets worse
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pain that spreads to your shoulders, neck, jaw, or arms
  • Pain that gets better quickly after taking nitroglycerin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat along with other symptoms

If you have any pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or any warning signs of a heart attack, get medical help right away. Also get emergency help if you're confused at all about whether your symptoms are from a heartburn or a heart attack.

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