On-Call Advice

Are heartburn and acid indigestion the same thing? 

Although both conditions involve discomfort and feature symptoms that tend to overlap, leading many people to use the terms interchangeably, heartburn and acid indigestion occur in distinct areas of the body.

Acid indigestion usually describes feelings of discomfort in the stomach or abdomen that can occur with eating. Sometimes called sour or upset stomach, symptoms may include burning stomach pain, belching, bloating, abdominal fullness, nausea or vomiting. This condition typically occurs when the stomach is stimulated to produce acid, or when the mucous lining of the stomach fails to protect it from acid or other irritating substances, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Symptoms also may result from eating too much or too quickly, from eating high-fat foods, or from eating during high-stress situations.

Unlike acid indigestion, heartburn refers to burning sensations or feelings of pressure in the upper abdomen and chest. And although heartburn can be a symptom of acid indigestion, it occurs when stomach acid leaks into the lower esophagus and burns the esophageal lining— often brought on by bending over or lying down, or by eating certain spicy or acidic foods. As a side note, while this pain can feel like one of the classic symptoms of heart disease, heartburn actually doesn’t have anything to do with the heart. 

Occasional episodes of acid indigestion and heartburn usually are relieved by self-treatment with over-the-counter medications. Avoiding alcohol and carbonated beverages and refraining from smoking also may help to relieve symptoms. However, acid indigestion and heartburn may be signs of a more serious problem like a stomach ulcer or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—particularly if symptoms last longer than two weeks. If you experience acid indigestion or heartburn fairly often, see your healthcare provider.

What is laryngitis, and what causes it? What treatments are recommended?

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx, the “voice box” that contains the vocal cords. It can be either acute (of short duration), or chronic (of long duration). Laryngitis typically results in a change of vocal quality, often described as hoarseness or a weak voice. Associated symptoms can include dry throat, cough, a tickling sensation that leads to repeated clearing of the throat, and/or a sore throat.

Acute laryngitis can result from viral or bacterial infection, such as the common cold, flu, bronchitis or pneumonia. Chronic laryngitis may result from continuous irritation of the larynx brought on by heavy smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux. People who constantly use their voice also can irritate their vocal cords and experience laryngitis. Voice changes also may be caused by benign or malignant growths on the vocal cords.

Frequently effective self-treatment measures for acute laryngitis include the following:

•Rest your voice and avoid talking as much as possible to give the inflammation a chance to subside. 

•Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol or caffeine, since those agents can dry out and irritate the vocal cords.

•Drink plenty of water and use a humidifier to maintain moisture and lubrication in the throat. 

•Cover your mouth with a scarf or mask when going out in extremely cold weather.

•Moisten your throat by sucking on lozenges or gargling with saltwater.

A healthcare provider should be seen in cases where there is difficulty swallowing or breathing, or if you develop a high fever with laryngitis. Voice change that persists for longer than 3 weeks should be evaluated by a physician to determine the underlying cause. 

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