Heartburn – Appropriate Use of OTC Medications – Nurse Practitioner
Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that may radiate
toward the neck, throat, and occasionally, the back. It most
often results from the reflux of gastric contents into the esophagus.
Heartburn is among the most common gastrointestinal
complaints, and is a common reason people seek medical care.
The worldwide prevalence of reflux symptoms that occur at least
once a week is estimated to be 13%, but varies widely among
countries. In the US, the prevalence ranges from 6% to 30%.
It is higher among individuals who are 50 years or older, those
who are smokers, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID)
and/or aspirin users, and obese individuals.
Heartburn and regurgitation are the typical symptoms of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is defined as
the effortless movement of stomach contents into the esophagus
or mouth, which leads to troublesome symptoms and/or complications.
Heartburn is a symptom – GERD is a disease. Heartburn
is differentiated from GERD based on symptom frequency
and severity, and the impact of symptoms on quality of life.
Reduced quality of life is linked with frequent symptoms –
especially nocturnal symptoms, which can lead to sleep
disturbances that impair next-day functioning.
Men and women are equally affected by GERD, but men
are at greater risk of developing complications – mainly erosive
esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer. GERD
should be managed by a health care provider, as patients may
need long-term therapy and ongoing monitoring for complications.
In contrast, heartburn can often be managed with appropriate
self-care including lifestyle changes and over-the-counter