The discomfort can usually be relieved by taking alkaline preparations to counteract the excessive acidity (see antacid). Proper dietary habits, e.g., eating slowly, avoiding spicy foods, and a period of physical inactivity after eating, may prevent heartburn. Sometimes the condition is symptomatic of a disease of the digestive system, such as a stomach ulcer or gall bladder disorder.
Chronic heartburn, known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Persistent recurrence should be called to the attention of a physician, and is often treated with drugs, including H2-blockers such as famotidine (Pepcid) and cimetidine (Tagamet) and proton-pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec). Surgery in which the upper dome-shaped portion of the stomach is sutured around the lower esophagus to increase the pressure on the esophogeal side of the sphincter and prevent reflux is also used to treat GERD.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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