Heartburn is often a symptom of other diseases going on in the body. It manifests as a burning sensation in the chest due to the backflow or regurgitation of contents or acids of the stomach into the esophagus. One of the most common causes of constant heartburn is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Other causes include gastritis, pregnancy, and intake of certain foods and medications. Posture and choice of clothing may also contribute to constant heartburn.
GERD, commonly referred to as acid reflux, is a condition in which the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) functions abnormally. The LES, a ringlike muscle around the lower end of the esophagus, prevents the stomach contents from going back up. When this malfunctions, acids and other stomach contents can go back to the esophagus and mouth. This is why, aside from the constant heartburn, many patients also get a bitter or acidic taste in the throat and mouth, as well as nausea and vomiting symptoms.
Gastritis, another cause of constant heartburn, is the inflammation in the lining of the stomach. This frequently occurs due to infection, use of some medications, exposure to chemicals, and physical stress. Nausea, belching, abdominal pain, and vomiting are some of its common manifestations.
Pregnancy, as well as obesity, can also lead to constant heartburn. Pressure from the growing abdomen of the pregnant woman often pushes the stomach contents backward, thus leading to incidence of constant heartburn. Likewise, in obese individuals, the increased abdominal size may also put pressure on the stomach region. Wearing tight-fitting clothes, as well as bending over and lying down, especially after a full meal, can sometimes cause stomach acids and contents to go back.
Hiatal hernia, a medical condition where a stomach part protrudes through a weak opening present in the diaphragm, is another cause of constant heartburn. Intake of fatty foods, and beverages like tea, alcohol, and soft drinks may also result in heartburn in susceptible individuals. Blood pressure medications, as well as some asthma drugs are also implicated in some heartburn cases. Individuals who suffer from chronic heartburn are often advised to avoid foods, beverages, and medicines that may further aggravate their condition.
Complications that can arise from constant heartburn include cough, formation of ulcers in the esophagus, and narrowing of the esophagus. Some patients may develop Barrett's esophagus, which can lead to cancer. Barrett's esophagus is a condition where cells that line the esophagus undergo changes due to the frequent contact with stomach acid.