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What Causes Heartburn

Heartburn is a symptom. It isn’t a type of disease. By understanding the physiological causes of heartburn, you’ll better understand heartburn and your own body.

Nexium 24HR: What Causes Heartburn

The difference between heartburn and a heart attack

The symptoms of heartburn and heart attack are often confused. They are very different conditions but can feel similar. It’s important to learn the difference and know when to seek medical help.

Nexium 24HR: Signs of Heartburn

Signs of Heartburn

  • A burning pain in your chest that rises toward your throat and mouth.

  • The burning pain worsens when you bend over or lie down.

  • An unpleasant, acidic taste in your mouth.

  • Bad breath.

Signs of a heart attack

Signs of Heart Attack

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.

  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If your heartburn seems worse or different than usual, seek medical attention immediately if you experience chest discomfort, have heart disease or diabetes, smoke, are overweight or have high cholesterol. Do not wait. Call 911 immediately for emergency medical help.

Content sourced from the American Heart Association. The content above is for information purposes only. The third party trademark/company identified above has not sponsored, approved or endorsed this product and is in no way affiliated with Pfizer Inc. or Nexium 24HR.

Heartburn Anatomy

Nexium 24HR Anatomy
The muscular tube that connects the mouth and throat to the stomach.
A circular band of muscles around the bottom part of your esophagus.
An internal organ in which some food digestion occurs.
A molecule that produces acid inside the cells that line the stomach.
A muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen.

Physiological Causes

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid rises into your esophagus. Normally when you swallow, your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes, allowing liquid to flow into your stomach, before closing again.

If the LES relaxes abnormally, acid can flow back up into your esophagus and cause heartburn.

This is the number one cause of heartburn, and its official name is transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, or transient LES relaxation. Its effects can be worsened if you bend over or lie down, carry extra body weight, have poor posture or wear tight clothing.

A hiatal hernia is another physiological cause that leads to heartburn. It happens when a part of your stomach sticks out through your diaphragm and into your chest cavity, trapping fluid and stomach acid and keeping your esophagus from passing food into your stomach.