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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Heartburn and acid reflux in adults

You get heartburn when the valve (also called the sphincter) at the top of your stomach relaxes or weakens.

When this happens, acid or occasionally some of your stomach contents can flow back into your food pipe (your oesophagus). This can irritate the lining of your oesophagus.

You may feel discomfort or even pain rising up from your chest to your neck.

Heartburn is very common and almost everyone has it sometimes. But if it keeps happening, it’s called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

Heartburn can be caused or made worse by:

Some people have silent reflux. With silent reflux, you do not get heartburn but the acid can damage your throat and vocal cords.

Symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux

Symptoms tend to come and go and tend be worse after a meal. Common symptoms may include:

The symptoms of silent reflux may include:

Treating heartburn and acid reflux

Most people can manage heartburn and reflux with eating and lifestyle changes and antacids. Over-the-counter antacids include Mylanta and Gaviscon.

Some people with heartburn may need stronger medications such as omeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole or famotidine. Some might even need surgery to reduce their symptoms.

See your GP if you have heartburn and:

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On the next page: Self-care for heartburn

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

See also:

H. pylori

Page reference: 52876

Review key: HIARH-24342