Heartburn (Dyspepsia), Lei's story, What is heartburn?, How is heartburn diagnosed, treated, and prevented?, Resources
While dyspepsia is quite widespread among adults, children rarely get it. They might feel indigestion after overeating, but children usually do not have heartburn or other types of dyspepsia.
By itself, dyspepsia is not a disease. Instead, it is a collection of uncomfortable symptoms that may arise because a person eats or drinks too much or is feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. Nonetheless, a person who has recurring or frequent bouts of heartburn should see a doctor because this may be a sign of other disorders, including:
- Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix, a small tube connected to the large intestine.
- Peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach or small intestine.
- Hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes up into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm, the muscle between the chest and the abdomen.
- Lactose intolerance is a problem in digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.
- Gallbladder disease is inflammation or blockage in the gallbladder, a small organ of the digestive system.
- Gastroesophageal (GAS-tro-eh-SAH-fuh-GEE-ul) reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive condition in which the muscular valve (lower esophageal sphincter) between the esophagus (food pipe) and stomach does not work properly, allowing stomach acid to flow backward into the esophagus. Some studies link tissue damage due to GERD with risk for esophageal cancer.
- True heart pain, which is also called angina pectoris (an-JY-na PEKtor-is), is a symptom that suggests something is wrong with the heart.
How Is Heartburn Diagnosed, Treated, and Prevented?
Heartburn is diagnosed in part by the patient's history of discomfort after eating. Doctors also use various tests to confirm heartburn or dyspepsia. Some of these help the doctor to rule out other possible conditions, while others test specifically for dyspepsia. With respect to heartburn and acid reflux, x-ray studies may show the reflux of swallowed material from the stomach into the esophagus. A pH probe may be placed within the esophagus to directly demonstrate that gastric acid is entering into the esophagus. A flexible endoscope
may be passed into the esophagus to observe the inflammation, or esophagitis, that has resulted.
Guidelines for preventing heartburn include:
- Avoiding chocolate, coffee, and alcohol
- Passing up greasy or spicy foods
- Quitting smoking
- Losing weight
- Avoiding lying down within three hours of eating
- Finding ways to deal with stress
See also Appendicitis
• GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
• Hernia, Gastrointestinal
• Peptic Ulcer
Brubaker, Michelle. “GERD Study Offers Minimally Invasive Procedure at No Cost.” U.C. San Diego Health Newsroom, September 21, 2015.
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American Gastroenterological Association. 4930 Del Ray Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814. Telephone: 301-654-2055. Website:
(accessed July 16, 2015).
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 9000 Rockville Pk., Bethesda, MD 20892-2560. Telephone: 301-496-3583. Website:
(accessed March 28, 2016).
* enzymes (EN-zimes) are proteins that help speed up a chemical reaction in a cell or organism.
* endoscope (EN-duh-skope) is a tool for looking inside parts of the body. It consists of a lighted tube and optical fibers and/or lenses.