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Health Zone: HYPOCHONDRIAC CORNER - Have I got heartburn? Or a oesophagitis?

Byline: PAUL JOHNSON

HEARTBURN happens when strong acids in the stomach leak back up into the gullet, causing a burning sensation.

The stomach is protected by a special lining, but the gullet is much more sensitive. Normally a one-way muscle ring at the top of the stomach stops the contents moving upwards, but in some cases this can malfunction. It often happens after eating or drinking a lot. Some people hardly ever get it, while for others it can be a daily occurrence. Smoking and being overweight can make it worse, as can spicy foods. It's not serious but can be painful.

There are dozens of over-the-counter medicines. It's worth trying a few to get one that works for you.

OCCASIONAL heartburn can develop into a much more serious condition known as oesophagitis.

This happens when the constant leakage of acid causes inflammation in the gullet. Bad cases can trigger ulcers and these can bleed or cause scar tissue to build up. If the scars becomes bad, they can block the gullet and hamper swallowing.

Doctors can diagnose the condition with a gastroscope, a flexible tube passed down into the stomach. Alternatively a barium meal, together with X-rays, can chart the progress of stomach acid.

Treatment is similar for heartburn - altering diet and stopping smoking. Only in severe cases is surgery necessary.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2001
Words:222
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