Heartburn Symptoms

Heartburn refers to the burning sensation experienced in the chest due to acid reflux, typically experienced after eating or when lying down.

Below, you will find a list of heartburn symptoms, how these compare to heart attack symptoms and ulcer symptoms, and the difference between heartburn symptoms and acid reflux symptoms.


Symptoms of Heartburn

The primary symptom of heartburn is a burning pain experienced centrally in the chest, directly behind the sternum (breastbone). This can occur briefly, intermittently, or even steadily for a few hours.

A bad case of heartburn could also lead to:

  • Trouble with swallowing, in particular the feeling that food is stuck even after it has cleared the windpipe
  • Getting a sour taste in your mouth after burping
  • Regular burping and general discomfort after eating
  • Symptoms increase if you lay down on your back or bend over
  • Symptoms subside with use of an over the counter antacid
  • Chronic coughing, dry cough, or being woken up at night with a cough. Many gastroenterologists report seeing adult adult patients with chronic cough who have been misdiagnosed with asthma when they really have acid reflux or GERD. Reflux may enter the trachea and irritate the the bronchi, leading to coughing.

Heartburn occurs because stomach acid is not being restrained to the stomach. As a result, symptoms should increase if you lay down (particularly on a negative incline) or bend over enough so that your torso is upside down.

If you lay down or bend over, gravity is not pulling liquid back into the stomach as it does when you are standing upright, which is why laying down or bending over should increase reflux intensity.


Heartburn Symptoms vs Acid Reflux Symptoms vs GERD Symptoms

Depending on who you ask, heartburn symptoms and acid reflux symptoms can be the same thing but can also be different. The term “acid reflux” is more all encompassing than heartburn as some people get acid reflux and may only experience burping up an acidic taste and not experience “heartburn symptoms” at all.

Most people will not distinguish between these two terms, and citing a difference between these two creates barriers out of semantics for the lay person. Heartburn symptoms are caused by acid reflux and that is what is important to remember.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is the regular occurrence of acid reflux. This term was brought since chronic acid reflux can lead to ulcers, esophageal cancer, and a host of other digestive problems.


Heartburn Symptoms versus Heart Attack Symptoms

Every day, patients show up in emergency rooms around the world, confusing heartburn symptoms for those of a heart attack. Below, you will find some of the primary differences between the two.

A heart attack occurs as the result of an ischemic heart (lacking adequate oxygen). This results in not only a burning pain (think of a “burn” a muscle experiences when it is extremely tired) but also a “squeezing” type of pain referred to as angina.

Angina frequently spreads, particularly through the shoulders, arms, neck, and jaw. Sometimes pain only occurs in the shoulders and arms (without any chest pain) and the pain frequently only exists (or is worse) in the left shoulder and arm.

Heartburn, on the other hand, does not produce a squeezing pain, is comparatively mild, is constrained to the chest, and frequently results in burping with a bad taste in the mouth. Heartburn might keep you up at night, but it should not make you sweat or otherwise feel uneasy.

Two more things to know about heartburn are that these heartburn remedies will significantly reduce heartburn symptoms, whereas they will not help symptoms of ischemia.

If you are ever in doubt, call emergency medical services. It is better to be embarrassed after confusing your heartburn symptoms for a heart attack than it is to go untreated for a heart attack or even angina.


Difference Between Ulcer Symptoms and Heartburn Symptoms

The burning pain and generalized discomfort consistent with stomach ulcer symptoms are also similar to heartburn symptoms. Additionally, peptic ulcers can even help bring about reflux.

There are two primary differences between these two conditions. Firstly, heartburn symptoms typically occur higher in the chest, whereas gastric and duodenal ulcers usually result in burning pain in the stomach itself.

Additionally, ulcer symptoms peak on an empty stomach and are unaffected by body position, whereas heartburn is at its peak when you are very full, bending over, or laying down. Finally, ulcer symptoms tend to last longer than heartburn symptoms, however both symptoms are known to come and go.

Regardless, chronic heartburn needs to be treated just as ulcers do. As a result, if you experience chronic discomfort it does not really matter if they are ulcer symptoms or heartburn symptoms, as you should consult with a qualified medical professional either way. If you are having heartburn symptoms twice per week or more, see a doctor for evaluation.