Persistent and severe heartburn can be a warning sign of other more serious conditions that may eventually lead to complications.
The symptoms may signal the presence of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease - GERD.
It is caused by acid from the stomach washing back into the throat where it burns and erodes the throat’s lining.
Individuals who experience severe heartburn report frequent disturbed sleep.
Men are more likely to report disturbances to sleep because of heartburn than women are.
Chest pain may be a sign of severe heartburn or heart attack. The pain caused by a heart attack and during a severe heartburn event is difficult to distinguish.
Sophisticated medical testing is needed to establish whether it is a heart attack or not.
In addition, both severe heartburn and heart attacks have many similar symptoms and occur in similar types of people - older and overweight people.
Potential signs of a heartburn that could be confused for a heart attack include:
A direct test for diagnosing the cause of heartburn is esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD).
During EGD, the doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube equipped with a light and camera (endoscope) down your throat.
The camera allows your doctor to see if you have an ulcerated or inflamed oesophagus (esophagitis) or stomach (gastritis).
EGD can also reveal a peptic ulcer. The doctor can take tissue samples to test for Barrett's oesophagus or oesophageal cancer.
Both Barrett's oesophagus and oesophageal cancer are potential complications of severe heartburn.
Severe heartburn will generally require prescribed medications or treatment.