ZocdocAnswersCan heartburn cause shortness of breath?

Question

Can heartburn cause shortness of breath?

After I ate lunch yesterday I had trouble breathing about a half hour later. Was this just heartburn? I've never really had this feeling before. I did eat a lot of spicy stuff at lunch but I was really scared when I couldn't catch my breath.

Answer

Heartburn, or gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD, is a fairly common problem. This can cause many symptoms -- but shortness of breath is not a common one. I would recommend that you have this evaluated by your primary care doctor. Shortness of breath can be a worrisome symptom. The most common cause is problems with the lungs, problems with the heart or problems with the blood. All of these problems can be significant, so shortness of breath is a condition that must be taken seriously. Reflux normally causes the burning sensation in the chest. Often people get a bitter or acidic taste in the mouth as well. Shortness of breath is not common. Not rarely, people can get coughing from reflux, as the acid from the stomach irritates the throat and lungs. I would recommend that you have this evaluated. There are fortunately many good treatments for reflux (like medicines you take daily or medicine you take just as needed). Rarely the reflux is so bad that surgery is needed. As for shortness of breath, the cause really determines the treatment. Please see your primary care doctor. Common cause of shortness of breath like asthma should be ruled out. If needed, you may need to be referred to a lung doctor (pulmonologist). Good luck!

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