Is This Burning Pain Really Heartburn?

Chest pain, shortness of breath, burning sensation – these are some of the common symptoms of heartburn. But the nature of this disease and its symptoms is such that it is very easy to confuse it for something else.

While confusing a normal heartburn episode with heart attack is not much of an issue, just imagine the repercussions if it was the other way round. What if you suffer from a much serious ailment but do not take any actions, thinking it is nothing but heartburn that can be treated with normal medicines. The consequences can be fatal, to say the least.

Thus it is absolutely essential to differentiate between heartburn and other diseases that involve similar symptoms. Let us have a look at some common health disorders that can be confused with heartburn and vice versa:

Heart Attack – Similar in name and in symptoms, heart attack tops the list of illnesses that can be confused with heartburn. While throbbing chest pain and breathlessness are the common signs of heart attack, there are a few other signs that can help you differentiate between heartburn and heart attack:

• A heartburn victim normally uses fingers to point to the source of the pain, while a heart attack victim will use a clenched fist to point to the area from where the pain originated.

• Heartburn pain is more localized, while heart attack pain covers a larger area

• Heartburn pain remains confined to the chest area, but heart attack pain can spread to other areas of the body especially neck and arms

• Some other symptoms of heart attack include nausea, cold sweat, and dizziness; while heartburn symptoms are usually just pain and burning sensation in the chest.

If you see any of these symptoms or have the slightest doubt in your mind, call 911 immediately and get medical help.

Angina – Angina refers to a painful or uncomfortable sensation in the chest that occurs when part of the heart does not receive enough oxygen. And since the first symptoms of this disease are similar to heartburn, it is commonly mistaken for the same. There are two common indicators that can help you differentiate between Heartburn & Angina –

• If your pain usually begins after eating a meal, it is most likely heartburn but if the pain in your chest increases with exertion and reduces after resting for some time, you might be suffering from Angina.

• Most people resort to using an antacid to alleviate heartburn symptoms. If this improves your condition and helps you get rid of the discomfort then it could well have been heartburn but if your pain does not reduce with an antacid, consult your doctor immediately and get checked for Angina.

Also, antacids do not always work in heartburn cases, thus it is best to consult a doctor to find out the exact cause of your chest pain.

Indigestion: Another digestive disorders that is commonly confused with Heartburn, is Indigestion. While both these health disorders are associated with digestive problems, and some of the cures also might be similar – they can still be distinguished from each other through some common signs –

• Pain caused due to Indigestion is confined to the stomach area, while heartburn is a result of flow-back of stomach acids into the esophagus, thus the pain is confined to the chest area.

• Indigestion might also be accompanied by flatulence and feeling of being bloated, while heartburn can cause breathlessness.

• Heartburn causes severe burning pain in the chest while pain due to indigestion is more moderate and tolerable.

Hiatus Hernia: Hernia is a painful condition in which a part of the stomach slides away from its normal position causing extreme discomfort. One of the very first symptoms of Diaphragmatic Hernia is Heartburn, which explains why it is repeatedly confused with it. Often patients do not realize they have Hernia, until the condition becomes so bad that it requires surgical intervention.

The only major symptom of Hernia is that the pain becomes worse on bending or lying down. There are two categories of Hiatus Hernia –

• Sliding Hiatus Hernia: This is one of the most common forms of hernia that occurs when a part of the stomach slides down from its normal position into the lower part of the esophagus. The symptoms bear close resemblance with heartburn, which is why most people suffering from sliding hiatus hernia try self-treating their condition through heartburn remedies.

• Paraesophageal Hiatus Hernia: Unlike sliding hernia, Paraesophageal hernia is more serious and painful and often requires immediate surgical treatment. In this condition, the stomach gets pushed behind the esophagus, in a position where it can get trapped by the diaphragm resulting in its blood supply being cut off. This is a rare condition, thus the chances of your suffering from it are also very low.

Again, a doctor is the best judge of your condition and it is best to consult a doctor and get yourself checked before drawing any conclusion on your own.

Peptic Ulcer: Peptic ulcer refers to the condition in which the lining of your small intestine gets eroded, causing an ulceration of the stomach walls. It is a painful problem that has varied symptoms including nausea, heartburn, chest pain and sometimes none at all. Check if your heartburn is also accompanied by abdominal pain that gets better or worse after a meal. If yes, you might be suffering from Peptic ulcer and not just Heartburn.

The above mentioned list includes just a few common health disorders that can be confused as Heartburn, however there are many more such diseases that can show symptoms similar to heartburn. The best way is to consult your doctor and get yourself checked. Correct diagnosis is extremely essential, to help you follow the right treatment procedure.