What Are the Causes of Heartburn and Nausea?

The causes of heartburn and nausea can vary from temporary viruses to serious disease. The causes of nausea are different than the causes of heartburn. If you have one of these symptoms, it's important for you to determine the causes so you can prevent serious problems. It is also critical to know when to consult a physician for diagnosis and treatment.

What is Heartburn ?

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. It is usually a burning sensation just under the breastbone. Heartburn can give you an acidic taste in your mouth. Heartburn is a common symptom of adults. It occurs equally in men and in women. With age, the number of people complaining of this symptom increases.


Causes of Heartburn

Common causes of heartburn are gastroesophageal reflux disease or a hiatal hernia. Pregnancy can cause heartburn. Many medications can cause heartburn.

According to MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, drugs which can cause heartburn include: anticholinergics, beta-blockers for high blood pressure or heart disease, calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, dopamine-like drugs for Parkinson's disease, progestin for abnormal menstrual bleeding or birth control, sedatives for anxiety or insomnia, theophylline for asthma, and tricyclic antidepressants.


Causes of Nausea

Nausea can be caused by an irritated stomach, certain foods or emotional stress. Sometimes nausea is a result of early pregnancy, motion sickness or seasickness.

There are common medical causes of nausea such as a viral gastroenteritis or food poisoning. Nausea is a known side effect of some medications, for example, certain antibiotics or pain medications. According to MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, common causes of nausea also include: food allergies, chemotherapy, migraine, severe pain, vertigo and rotavirus.


Diabetes can cause slowed emptying of the stomach or gallbladder. If nausea recurs or persists, it is important to consult a physician for diagnosis.

Less commonly known, a heart attack can begin with symptoms of nausea, particularly in women. If you suspect a heart attack, immediately call 911 to get to a hospital emergency room.

Brain trauma can lead to edema or swelling of the brain. It can also lead to hemorrhage or bleeding. Both edema and hemorrhage contribute to high intracranial pressure which often causes nausea and/or vomiting. Brain trauma requires emergency care.


Rarely, the cause of nausea can be stomach cancer or a brain tumor. Once again, consulting a medical professional for persistent or recurring nausea is critical.

When to Contact a Physician

Heart attack symptoms can be mistaken for heartburn. If you have a burning feeling and a squeezing, crushing, or sensation of heaviness or pressure in your chest, you must call 911 for emergency care.

Contact your physician if your symptom of heartburn or nausea worsens, recurs or persists for a few weeks. If you have unexplained weight loss, seek your medical professional. Make an appointment to see your doctor if your stools are black, maroon or tarry. Likewise if your vomit has blood in it or has the appearance of coffee grounds, consult your physician. If you believe a medication or medications are causing heartburn or nausea, do not discontinue the medication without your physician's guidance.


Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.
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