Bad complications from heartburn

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Heartburn should be checked urgently by a doctor because of the impending health risks

Heartburn is a common symptom that should be checked urgently by a doctor if it occurs repeatedly or regularly. Because on the one hand the heartburn or the belching of stomach acid can damage the esophagus and cause corresponding secondary diseases, on the other hand the heartburn may itself indicate an existing illness.

According to the Red Cross Hospital (RKH) in Kassel, every second adult in Germany suffers from corresponding complaints and "6.4 million Germans take over-the-counter medications for heartburn every year." med. Christian Löser, chief physician of the RKH medical clinic, explained that not only heartburn or the so-called reflux need treatment, but "it is rather the complications that make heartburn so dangerous." In addition, "heartburn is also a consequence an existing illness. ”Although occasional heartburn is usually not a concern, a doctor should be consulted if there is increased reflux.

Esophageal cancer as an impending complication Heartburn or reflux is manifested by a painful burning sensation in the esophagus. If this occurs “several times a week, the acidic gastric juice permanently corrodes the sensitive lining of the esophagus, which can lead to severe inflammation and even to esophageal cancer,” reports RKH, where, since 2012, all diseases caused by heartburn have been treated at the Center for Visceral Medicine. Relying on the figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the clinic announced that the number of people with oesophageal cancer had doubled in the past 20 years. At least a few of these cases can be traced back to the effects of heartburn. It is therefore "important that this disease is given more attention," emphasized Professor Loser. The patients would have to be sensitized and require professional medical care, the doctor continued. Too often, heartburn is simply accepted by those affected, although there is often a serious illness behind it. Together with Professor Dr. Rudolf Hesterberg, chief physician of the clinic for general and visceral medicine at the RKH, heads Prof. Löser the first center for visceral medicine in Northern Hesse. "Our center takes care of this health problem," Löser explained.

Self-therapy not very sensible and sometimes dangerous The heartburn is caused by the reflux of gastric acid into the esophagus, which can be caused, for example, by impairment of the sphincter muscle between the stomach and esophagus or by considerable gastric pressure. In addition to a painful burning sensation in the throat and neck area (see throat pain and sore throat), belching of the stomach acid often causes an unpleasant bad breath. If necessary, teeth and gums are also affected. In the long run, repeated contact with gastric juice causes an esophageal inflammation, which in turn can be accompanied by various other complaints. In addition to inflammation, there is a risk of narrowing of the esophagus, ulcers and, in the worst case, diseases of esophageal cancer. Therefore, a specialist should be consulted for regular heartburn, explained Prof. Löser. In this case, "it can be expected that the heartburn has either already caused worse disorders, or the cause of this is an existing disease of which the patient knows nothing." He advises against self-therapy by over-the-counter medication without a precise knowledge of the existing situation Expert urgently. This is “not very sensible and even dangerous,” Löser emphasized.

Esophagus and gastroscopy provide clarity about the cause In the case of heartburn, the doctor usually does so-called endoscopic mirroring of the esophagus and stomach, which can be carried out completely symptom-free and symptom-free for the patient with a short-acting sedative syringe, explained Professor Löser . Only when the doctor knows the patient's individual disease situation exactly can a therapy concept tailored to the patient's needs be developed. To relieve heartburn as a reflux symptom, there are excellent and highly effective treatment options today. In addition, the patient can also make daily changes to significantly alleviate their reflux symptoms, the RKH reports in its current press release. For example, avoiding nicotine and alcohol, reducing excess weight, and taking many small (protein-rich) meals throughout the day are recommended. Voluminous evening meals should be avoided according to the information from the clinic. There is also a connection between lifestyle factors such as stress, little exercise, increased alcohol consumption or unhealthy diet and the occurrence of heartburn. Heartburn with acid regurgitation often occurs during pregnancy.

Tips for avoiding heartburn In its press release, the RKH also puts together some tips for avoiding heartburn. Accordingly, coffee and alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, smoking should generally be avoided, obesity reduced and stress avoided or reduced by suitable relaxation methods (e.g. autogenic training or yoga). Those affected should "not eat too salty or too spicy, avoid sweet, acidic and high-fat foods" and "rather prefer many smaller meals," reports the RKH. The clinic advises against voluminous late meals. "Lots of exercise and physical activity" could have a positive effect, however, and the options for concomitant medication should be checked if necessary. (fp)

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