Occasional heartburn is often treatable with over-the-counter medication and/or lifestyle modification.

Ask yourself these questions to see if your heartburn may be caused by a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD:
+ Have you been having symptoms of GERD and treating with over-the-counter medicines for more than 2 weeks?
+ Has the pattern of your heartburn changed? Is it worse than it used to be?
+ Do your symptoms include regurgitation — bringing up gas and small amounts of food from your stomach to your mouth?
+ Do you wake up at night with heartburn?
+ Have you been having any difficulty swallowing?
+ Do you continue to have heartburn symptoms even after taking non-prescription medication?
+ Do you experience hoarseness or worsening of asthma after meals, lying down, or exercise, or asthma that occurs mainly at night?
+ Are you experiencing unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite?
+ Do your heartburn symptoms interfere with your lifestyle or daily activity?
+ Are you in need of increasing doses of nonprescription medicine to control heartburn?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your heartburn warrants attention from a medical professional. People with long-standing chronic heartburn are at greater risk for serious complications including stricture (narrowing) of the esophagus or a potentially precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD
Mayo Clinic.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.