You may have heard these conditions referred to collectively as "heartburn angina symptoms," but don't be mislead. The two are totally different conditions involving completely separate organ systems. Distinguishing between ordinary heartburn and angina symptoms can be difficult, yet it’s extremely important. While heartburn is typically merely a nuisance, angina can be a sign of a much more serious and urgent medical condition, such as a heart attack. The definitive identification of heartburn or angina symptoms is possible primarily through analyzing the additional symptoms that accompany the pain.
Angina can consist of discomfort, pressure, heaviness and a squeezing sensation in the chest. Pain can radiate away from the chest area, to the shoulders, arms, or abdomen. A burning sensation, common of heartburn, can also be present with angina. Technically, angina is chest pain which is caused by a decrease in blood flow to part of the heart. This lack of blood flow is most often due to narrowing of the coronary arteries, caused by arteriosclerosis.
Angina can actually be a symptom of another condition, such as coronary artery disease, and it is one of the most common reasons people visit the emergency room. Often people fear they may be suffering from a heart attack when they experience angina. In some cases, this is true, while in others, the patient has mistaken what is actually heartburn. In still other cases, angina indicates the presence of coronary artery disease or arteriosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack in the future, although an acute heart attack may not be present during the emergency room visit.
Heartburn is frequently accompanied by a burning sensation in the throat, coughing, and regurgitation. Pain from heartburn does not typically radiate to the arms or shoulders. Pain from heartburn appears most commonly after a meal, and can worsen when the sufferer is lying flat, enabling reflux to travel up the esophagus more easily. While its name suggests otherwise, heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart but is associated with the stomach and esophagus.
Heartburn is not a serious condition, but if left untreated, over time it can lead to permanent damage of the esophagus from the chronic form of heartburn known as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). While heartburn can be caused by spicy, hot, or acidic foods, caffeine, tobacco, garlic, or even chocolate, other conditions can lead to heartburn, such as obesity or pregnancy. In these conditions, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) can lose its ability to tighten or become weak, allowing stomach acids to travel into the esophagus.
Techniques for Differentiating Heartburn from Angina Symptoms
One way to tell if you’re experiencing heartburn or angina symptoms is to try taking antacids. Heartburn will typically respond to antacids, while angina won’t. While in severe cases, antacid treatment won’t completely eliminate heartburn, a pain in the chest that responds to antacid treatments is not likely to be angina.
Another way to tell if what you’re experiencing is heartburn or angina symptoms is to think about what you were doing before the pain started. Heartburn often follows a meal or occurs when lying down. Angina most often occurs after physical exertion, such as exercise, walking, or even an angry outburst.
Finally, analyze the pain. Heartburn occurs in the middle of the chest and is a burning sensation. Heartburn pain will not radiate down the arms. Angina feels like pressure or squeezing, and is more of a vague pain. If the pain you’re experiencing is radiating to your neck, shoulders, or arms, you are most likely experiencing angina.
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