Heartburn - when to worry about it!
Heartburn is a common complaint.
The advice from NHS Choices about Heartburn and Acid Reflux can be seen here:
On some estimates, as many as 40% of the population can suffer from heartburn.
When heartburn is persistent, it can indicate an underlying problem in the digestion system. We define 'persistent' as meaning heartburn that occurs on a daily basis for three weeks or more.
Over-the-counter heartburn remedies are often helpful in relieving symptoms, but may well not resolve the underlying condition. So if your heartburn is persistent, or if you continually have to take over-the-counter medication to relieve the heartburn, you should see your GP to discuss how to reach a proper diagnosis of the underlying causes.
If medication is not successful in resolving heartburn, you may be referred for an endoscopy, a miniature camera placed down your throat, which can indicate abnormalities. In some cases you might be offered a Cytosponge test.
It is estimated that around 10% of persistent heartburn sufferers may have Barrett's Oesophagus, and that 10% of these Barrett's Oesophagus cases may develop cancer. The type of cancer involved is called oesophageal adenocarcinoma, for which the UK is reported as having the highest incidence in the world.