Heartburn | Complications

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Can heartburn be serious?

If you only have heartburn now and then, it's probably not serious. However, if you have heartburn frequently, it can lead to esophagitis (an inflamed lining of the esophagus). If esophagitis becomes severe, your esophagus might narrow and you might have bleeding or trouble swallowing.

If you get more than occasional heartburn, it may be a symptom of acid reflux disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), an inflamed stomach lining (gastritis), hiatal hernia or peptic ulcer.

Is heartburn associated with heart attacks?

No. But sometimes pain in the chest may be mistaken for heartburn when it's really a sign of heart disease. If you have any of the symptoms in the box below, call your doctor.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have trouble swallowing or pain when swallowing.
  • You're vomiting blood.
  • Your stools are bloody or black.
  • You're short of breath.
  • You're dizzy or lightheaded.
  • You have pain going into your neck and shoulder.
  • You break out in a sweat when you have pain in your chest.
  • You have heartburn often (more than 3 times a week) for more than 2 weeks.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 11/96

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