Should I see a doctor about my heartburn?
BY: Stacey Colino
Occasional heartburn is common, and many people can get relief simply by popping an over-the-counter (OTC) antacid. But when heartburn symptoms are persistent and you find yourself taking medication regularly, you should see your doctor, says Dr. Charlene Prather, a gastroenterologist at Saint Louis University in Missouri.
You should also seek medical attention if heartburn is associated with painful or difficult swallowing, unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue, or if you’re vomiting blood or passing black or reddish stools. These could be signs of a more serious condition or complication, such as ulcers or erosions of the esophagus, narrowing of the esophagus from scarring, a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus, or in rare cases, actual cancer.
“The main reason to see the doctor is to make sure the diagnosis is correct and to detect complications of reflux disease,” says Prather. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor can advise you on the best medications to prevent or relieve heartburn symptoms and recommend lifestyle changes to reduce heartburn episodes.
Stacey Colino has written for The Washington Post's health section and many national magazines, including Newsweek, Woman's Day, SELF, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Parenting, Sports Illustrated and Ladies' Home Journal. Stacey is a frequent contributor to Live Right Live Well.