Chronic heartburn is a symptom of digestive system disorder that occurs more than twice per week and hangs on for hours. While a usual bout may last for a few minutes once per month, underlying conditions that cause chronic heartburn are not uncommon and can have a multifaceted impact on the life of the suffer. Heartburn has many names, such as pyrosis, acid reflux, and acid indigestion to name a few. It's root cause is lifestyle or diet, that relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), hindering proper closure. The function of the LES is to open when food passes through to the stomach, then closes to prevent reflux of stomach acids back into the esophagus. Unfortunately, this does not always occur in the presence of some health conditions. Conditions that cause chronic heartburn: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD is a disease characterized by recurrent acid reflux of gastric acids that flow backward into the esophagus. This repeated assault causes burning chest pain, which can lead to bleeding and scarring of the esophagus. A narrowing of the food tube follows making it hard to swallow. If this condition goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to more serious medical problems such as stomach cancer and cancer of the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease costs approximately 10 billion dollars per year in medical expenses, with 63% of that is directly related to the cost of medications to reduce symptoms. The person suffering from this disease has a general lower quality of life and untold nights if disrupted sleep due to the constant burning. Some symptoms of GERD include, relentless heartburn, belching, halitosis, and inflamed gingiva (gums). Treatment usually involves antacids, H2 antagonists, and proton pump inhibitors to reduce symptoms. Hiatal Hernia: This condition is also a cause of persistent pyrosis, and if severe, surgical intervention may be necessary. Hiatal, or hiatus hernia occurs when the stomach protrudes upwards though a space in the diaphragm called the hiatus. The hiatus sometimes is larger than it should be, allowing for the stomach to bulge through it. This position puts pressure on the LES so that it doesn't close properly, causing acid reflux. There are two forms of hiatus hernia: Sliding - The most common form where the stomach slides up and down during a swallow. Paraesophageal - A portion 0f the stomach is located beside the esophagus, blocking food from entering the stomach. The danger with this form is that the stomach's blood supply can be cut off ,and may require surgical intervention. Symptoms are the same as GERD with the associated complications, which include nausea, heartburn, and regurgitation. Treatment is virtually the same as it is for GERD as well. Check with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment if you are having symptoms of conditions that cause chronic heartburn.
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