Conditions That Can Feel Like Heartburn But Are More Serious

Dec 24, 2022

Identify the signs of a heart attack and know when to seek medical attention. Heartburn, that searing sensation and ache in the chest after eating, is something almost everyone has experienced at some point in their lives. Heartburn results when acid from the stomach rises into the esophagus (the tube from the neck to the stomach). Although heartburn is normally harmless, it may be a symptom of more severe illnesses. Knowing the difference between chronic and occasional heartburn will help you obtain the appropriate therapy.

Heart Disease

Some medical conditions, such as heart disease, have symptoms similar to heartburn. Pain in the chest, arms, shoulders, jaw, throat, upper abdomen, and back are all possible indications of heart disease. Pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in your limbs are also possible. Because both may produce discomfort in the chest, this illness is sometimes misdiagnosed as heartburn. The symptoms of heart disease include chest pain, shortness of breath, and heartburn after moderate or vigorous activity.


Another condition that has similar symptoms to heartburn is gallstones, which form as masses inside the gallbladder. Gallstones are compact lumps of hard, bile-producing material. The discomfort associated with gallstones is sometimes more severe than that caused by heartburn, yet both conditions cause pain in the belly and are often confused with one another. If your heartburn discomfort persists after using an acid-suppressing medication, your doctor may recommend testing for gallstones. To put it simply, gallstones develop in the gallbladder, a tiny organ under the liver. The gallbladder produces and releases bile, an essential digestive fluid. Gallstones come in a rainbow of colors and sizes, from the size of a pinhead to that of a golf ball.

Stomach Ulcers

Stomach ulcers are often misdiagnosed as heartburn, especially in patients who have been using long-term anti-inflammatory medicines and are experiencing chest discomfort. Antibiotics are needed to treat bacterial infection that leads to stomach ulcers. Chest discomfort and a burning feeling in the upper abdomen and chest are common symptoms of ulcers. Peptic ulcers, more often known as stomach ulcers, are lesions that develop in the digestive tract lining. They occur when stomach acid and digestive enzymes erode the lining of the digestive system. Medication that inhibits acid production in the stomach or protects the stomach and intestinal lining from the acid's destructive effects is the standard treatment for stomach ulcers. Surgical removal of the ulcer or restoration of damaged digestive tissue may be required in certain circumstances.

Esophageal Cancer With Hiatal Hernias

Hiatal hernias and esophageal cancer are two more illnesses that may be misdiagnosed as heartburn. When a person has a hiatal hernia, food and stomach acid may be forced into the esophagus, producing GERD and comparable symptoms to heartburn. This occurs when a person's stomach protrudes past the diaphragm and down into the chest cavity. It's also possible to develop heartburn, sickness, and burping. Heartburn is not a sign that you have esophageal cancer, but long-term heartburn is cause for concern, so talk to your doctor about being screened for the disease. If you suffer from chronic heartburn, you may be at a greater risk of getting esophageal cancer.

Esophagitis And Gastroparesis

Heartburn has several potential causes, including gastroparesis as well as esophagitis. A sluggish digestive system may result from nerve damage in the digestive tract brought on by diabetes. Gastroparesis might cause acid reflux. Esophagitis is brought on by acid reflux, which happens too often. When taken without water, anti-inflammatory drugs like those used to treat osteoporosis and pain may pool in the esophagus and create irritation. Certain viruses and radiation may also trigger inflammation. Asthma and allergy symptoms may also play a role in causing esophagitis.


Can't seem to prevent the yucky thing in your stomach from rising to your throat? It's possible that the heartburn you're feeling isn't typical. This disorder may be a case of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid and food travel backward into the esophagus and, in extreme cases, into the mouth and lungs. A large percentage of the population suffers from GERD: The medical journal Gastroenterology reports that 20% of the population of the United States has it. However, several predisposing variables make some individuals more susceptible to the illness. When the sphincter between the stomach's esophagus and the esophagus relaxes too much, acid from the stomach may back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.