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March 15, 2022 6 min read

Heartburn, is a symptom that occurs when acid refluxes into your esophagus instead of remaining in your stomach, which can cause damage to your esophageal lining. This acid reflux can lead to a burning sensation in the chest, known as heartburn. When acid reflux persists, it can cause serious damage to the esophageal lining, among other health-related issues. It’s important to get a diagnosis if you have heartburn so you can take steps to prevent acid reflux.

Acid reflux is a fairly common problem for people in the United States, with over 60 million Americans experiencing it each month, and there are lots of conditions that cause heartburn. Not only are there several medical conditions that cause heartburn, but there are also certain habits that put you at higher risk for developing heartburn. Avoiding these risk factors is important if you don’t want to deal with this uncomfortable symptom.

60 million Americans infographic

Determining the cause of heartburn is important because it can help you treat it. The sooner you identify conditions that cause heartburn and start taking steps to reduce acid reflux, the less damage you’ll have to your esophageal lining and the fewer symptoms you’ll have to deal with. Here’s what you need to know about the conditions that cause heartburn.


What Is Heartburn?

Heartburn, is a symptom that occurs when stomach acid refluxes from the stomach into the esophagus. When your stomach acid makes contact with the delicate lining of your esophagus, it causes damage to your esophageal lining.

Some of the symptoms of heartburn include pain or a burning sensation in the chest, both of which are caused by your esophageal lining being exposed to stomach acid. Taking steps to reduce the reflux of stomach acid can help you get some relief from heartburn, but it’s an ongoing battle for a lot of people.

Causes Of Heartburn

Understanding some of the heartburn causes can help you reduce your risk of heartburn. If you have any of the health conditions that cause heartburn, it’s important to talk to your doctor about your risk of developing GERD, the chronic form of acid reflux. With proper treatment that focuses on the underlying causes of GERD, you may be able to prevent heartburn.

Health Conditions That Can Cause Heartburn

If you’re dealing with heartburn, you probably have several questions. How long does heartburn last? What causes heartburn? What conditions cause heartburn? Below, we’ll take a look at nine health conditions that cause heartburn and address some more questions about heartburn.


1. Angina

Angina is a medical condition that’s characterized by chest pain caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart. You may experience angina as a symptom of coronary artery disease. While angina doesn’t actually cause heartburn or GERD, the chest pain that presents with angina is often confused for heartburn. If you’re experiencing chest pain without other symptoms, you may have angina and not GERD.

Note:If you are experiencing severe chest pain, do not wait to seek emergency medical care. Other heart attack symptoms may include cold sweating, shortness of breath, vomiting and nausea, fatigue, and dizziness.

Stomach ulcers

2. Stomach Ulcers

It’s not uncommon for stomach ulcers to cause indigestion which may result in a burning sensation in your abdomen and chest, which can feel a lot like heartburn. If you’re living with stomach ulcers, talk to your doctor about what you can do to relieve symptoms and avoid making your stomach ulcers worse.


3. Gallstones

Gallstones are small stones that can form in your gallbladder as a result of hardened bile. When this bile hardens and forms stones in your gallbladder, it can lead to symptoms including pain, heartburn, indigestion, bloating, and food intolerance. The pain that results from gallstones may be dull or sharp and is typically worse if a stone is blocking a bile duct. Your doctor can provide more details about living with and treating gallstones.

Esophageal Cancer

4. Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cells inside of the esophagus. Heartburn may increase your risk for esophageal cancer if you have Barrett’s esophagus, but heartburn alone likely doesn’t indicate the presence of esophageal cancer. That being said, it’s important to talk to your doctor about managing heartburn to prevent Barrett’s esophagus, because this condition will increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Hiatial hernia

5. Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is a hernia that occurs in the upper stomach, which is near the area where acid reflux and other symptoms present. If you’re experiencing pain in your upper abdomen that isn’t accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth or a burning sensation, your pain could be a result of a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia typically requires surgery to repair, so ask your doctor if surgery is right for you upon diagnosis.


6. Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a medical condition that results from nerve damage that affects the digestive tract, often as a result of diabetes. Because gastroparesis can affect the speed at which food travels through your digestive tract, it can lead to heartburn. Your doctor may recommend dietary changes to help relieve gastroparesis.


7. Esophagitis

Esophagitis is inflammation of the esophagus that often results from acid reflux. Repeated reflux of acid into the esophagus can damage the esophageal lining, which can lead to inflammation and other complications. Esophagitis may also be caused by certain medications and allergies.


8. Pleuritis/Costochondritis

Pleuritis or costochondritis, which are both forms of inflammation in the chest, can cause pain that feels similar to heartburn. Both of these conditions can be caused by infections, and early treatment is important. If you think you may have pleuritis or costochondritis, talk to your doctor for a diagnosis.


9. Anxiety

In some cases, anxiety can actually lead to heartburn and make GERD symptoms worse. If you’ve tried all the basic acid reflux treatment options and none of them are working, it could be anxiety that’s making your reflux worse. If you’re dealing with anxiety as well as heartburn, make sure you talk to your doctor about treating your physical and cognitive symptoms.

Older gentleman with doctor

Conditions That Cause Heartburn: FAQs

What disease most commonly causes heartburn?

The most common condition that causes heartburn is GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD causes the acid from your stomach to reflux up into your esophagus, where it makes contact with your esophageal lining and causes serious damage. There are several potential causes of GERD and behaviors that increase your risk of developing GERD, so it’s important to avoid smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a healthy diet.

What does excessive heartburn indicate?

Excessive heartburn is an indicator that you’re dealing with GERD or another similar condition. If you’re experiencing very bad heartburn that’s causing severe pain, that may be an indicator that you’re not doing enough to treat and manage heartburn. Heartburn treatment and management is important if you want to avoid the long-term effects of GERD.

If you’re experiencing excessive heartburn, talk to your doctor about medications and lifestyle changes that can help. Your doctor can help you come up with a comprehensive heartburn management plan, which can help prevent Barrett’s esophagus and other long-term damage from GERD.

Why do I get heartburn every day?

If you’re dealing with heartburn occasionally as a result of the food you eat, that’s completely normal. Eating too much or eating trigger foods can lead to acute cases of heartburn, even in people who aren’t living with GERD. If you’ve noticed that you get heartburn every day no matter what you eat or what position you sleep in, you’re probably dealing with GERD.

Risk factors for GERD include being overweight, being pregnant, smoking cigarettes, taking certain medications, and hiatal hernias. For more information about preventing GERD through lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor.

When should I be concerned about heartburn?

While heartburn is a fairly common condition that can be caused by your diet, it can also lead to serious damage if you don’t treat and manage your heartburn. Heartburn causes damage to the esophageal lining, which can lead to conditions such as esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus. People living with GERD who develop Barrett’s esophagus are more likely to get esophageal cancer, which is a major concern.

Even if you’re not experiencing severe heartburn or your heartburn isn’t present every day, you might want to talk to your doctor about avoiding heartburn. By managing your weight, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding cigarette smoke, you can reduce heartburn and the long-term effects that it can cause.

Doctor with patient

Wrapping Up

There are a lot of conditions that cause heartburn, and managing that heartburn is an important part of your health. Over time, heartburn can cause damage to your esophageal lining that may increase your risk of esophageal cancer. Treatment options include medication and lifestyle changes.

If you’re living with GERD, MedCline can help you get relief from the symptoms that keep you up at night. Our Reflux Relief System is designed to offer relief from heartburn by offering gentle support while you sleep.