Welcome to the Heartburn Center, a service provided by Easton Hospital. If you are tired of living with chronic heartburn or fear the long-term use of medications, you are not alone. Many Americans experience heartburn on a daily basis. We are here to help you find a solution that fits your lifestyle so you can get back to being you.
Heartburn is a burning pain in the chest, just behind the breastbone. The pain is often worse when lying down or bending over.
Occasional heartburn is not unusual, and is not cause for alarm. Many people can manage the discomfort of heartburn on their own with simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. Your family physician has probably been able to help manage your condition effectively for a while.
When heartburn is more frequent or interferes with your daily routine, it may be a symptom of a more serious condition. You may require specialized medical care, more than an increased dose of medication, because sometimes medications just aren’t enough.
Symptoms of heartburn include:
When to go to the ER:
When to see a specialist:
Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach). Normally when you swallow, a valve around the bottom of your esophagus relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into your stomach, then the muscle tightens again.
If the valve relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus (acid reflux) and cause heartburn. The acid backup may be worse when you're bent over or lying down.
Sometimes, acid can flow up into your esophagus without any pain at all. This “silent heartburn,” if left untreated, can lead to complications such as esophagitis ( irritation of the esophagus lining), narrowing of the esophagus, difficulties swallowing, worsening of asthma or chronic cough and Barrett’s Esophagus (which can be a precursor to esophageal cancer).
Several procedures can help determine the extent of the heartburn:
These medications can lose their effectiveness over time. They also don't treat a major underlying root cause of reflux: the deteriorated valve between the esophagus and the stomach. For this reason, life-long medication therapy is often required. In addition, recent studies on the adverse effects of long-term use of PPIs indicate a connection with the failure to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, kidney disease, osteoporosis and dementia. PPI’s are also currently only approved by the FDA for short term use.
A common condition that often is seen in patients who have chronic heartburn is a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes upward through the diaphragm. The diaphragm normally has a small opening (hiatus) through which the esophagus passes on its way to connect to the stomach. The stomach can push up through this opening and cause a hiatal hernia. To effectively treat heartburn, many patients must first treat their hiatal hernia.
Several conditions can occur if heartburn is left untreated:
Contact the staff at the Heartburn Center by calling (610) 250-4100 or emailing EastonPA_Heartburn@chs.net.
If you have questions about other digestive issues, visit EastonGI.com.
250 South 21st Street
Easton, PA 18042-3892