Heartburn is the sensation of a burning or gnawing pain, typically located behind the breast bone in the chest or slightly lower down towards the upper part of the abdomen (called the epigastrium). It is a result of gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which acid produced in the stomach refluxes up into the lower portion of the esophagus, irritating the mucosal surface lining its inside. If the severity of the reflux is bad enough, chronic cough and irritation of the vocal cords can occur as well. In fact, one of the most common causes of chronic cough (lasting more than 8 weeks) is GERD. One helpful way of determining whether or not your symptoms are due to heartburn is an empiric trial of treatment. You can try some over-the-counter Tums or Prilosec which will help neutralize the acid in the stomach or help prevent its production. If your symptoms get better with this treatment, it is most likely GERD.
While your symptoms may be due to GERD, however, it is important to keep an open mind about what else could be causing your chest pain. If you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (bad cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure
, etc) then it is important to consider that your chest pain may be related to your heart. In any case, your primary care physician
should be able to help you figure out the exact cause of your chest pain and treat it.