Understanding heartburn and how typical symptoms could actually be a heart attack…

Heartburn is a burning feeling experienced when acid from your stomach moves back up your oesophagus or ‘food pipe’ – this is also referred to as reflux or GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease).1 GORD is one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions in Australia, estimated to affect 10-15% of the population.2 Whilst occasional reflux is not typically of concern, regularly recurring reflux can lead to other health issues and may be a sign of other underlying conditions.

Signs and symptoms

The main symptom of GORD is heartburn which can also feel like the symptoms of a heart attack. As these can be difficult to tell apart, it is important to seek immediate medical attention by dialling 000 if your chest pain lasts for more than a few minutes or if you experience any other heart attack warning signs such as shortness of breath or pain in your jaw or arm.

Other symptoms of GORD include:1

  • Feeling or being sick
  • Sour taste and burning feeling in your throat
  • A persistent cough, which may be worse at night
  • Wheezing
  • Tooth decay and gum disease
  • Laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx) which causes throat pain and hoarseness
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating and belching
  • Difficulty swallowing

 

Contributing factors

Whilst GORD is often associated with issues with the muscle that closes the stomach off at the bottom of the oesophagus, there are some factors that can contribute to GORD1:

  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Eating lots of fatty foods that take longer to digest in the stomach
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Certain foods; alcohol, coffee or chocolate
  • Certain medications e.g. aspirin

 

Management and treatment

Lifestyle changes to reduce the known contributing factors such as smoking, and diet may improve or eliminate GORD. Chat to your GP or pharmacist about any medications you take to check if they may be impacting your symptoms.

If symptoms persist, there are a number of over-the-counter medications available that may provide effective relief from symptoms – speak to your pharmacist about the best options for you.

If over the counter medicines do not provide relief or your symptoms return frequently or persist, it’s important to speak to your GP about treatment options and to rule out any other underlying issues.

Need a refill of your reflux medication?

It is recommended you speak to your GP if you have been taking reflux medication for more than 2 months, however if you do need a refill, get your meds conveniently delivered straight to your door with our online prescription service, Scripts Now – provided in partnership with Priceline.

 

References:

  1. Healthdirect. GORD (reflux)
  2. NPS Medicinewise. The management of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease