You know your chest hurts, but you don't know the cause. Is it heartburn...or something more serious? Heartburn is an unpleasant, but generally harmless condition that troubles almost everyone from time to time. But sometimes, symptoms that feel like heartburn may be something more serious, like gastroesphogal reflux disease, or even a heart attack. The most common symptom of heartburn is a burning feeling in the chest, just behind the breastbone. It may then spread up into the neck area. A person suffering from heartburn may also experience burning in the throat, trouble swallowing, or a feeling of food "sticking" in the chest or throat. Occasionally, heartburn may cause chronic cough, a sore throat, or a hoarse voice, particularly at night. Gastroesphogal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when there is a near constant reflux of stomach acids into the esophagus, which produces symptoms like everyday heartburn. Because of this, it can be hard to tell what's REALLY going on in your body! GERD heartburn, however, occurs much more frequently, often every day. It also tends to last for longer periods than basic heartburn. Another symptom of GERD is regurgitation, or the appearance of liquid, food particles, or an acidic taste in the mouth. Regurgitation occurs when the upper esophageal sphincter, or UES, opens slightly, causing refluxed matter to enter the mouth. A final symptom of GERD is frequent and severe nausea that can lead to vomiting. Often, nausea appears in the absence of heartburn. Sometimes, chest pain is not heartburn or GERD, but a heart attack. Although heart attack symptoms vary widely in form and severity, certain signs can help to signal a medical emergency. Pain in a heart attack tends to start in the chest, but may often extend beyond it, to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. Severe pain in the left arm is a commonly reported symptom. Shortness of breath, often accompanied by a cold, clammy sweat, are also signs of heart attack. Often, sufferers will feel like they need to sit down due to extreme lightheadedness or dizziness. Most people can tell the difference between common heartburn and something more serious, but there ARE cases where a heart attack has been written off as a bad case of heartburn. For this reason, if you experience serious heartburn in conjunction with other symptoms, take one regular strength aspirin and call 911 for assistance immediately. It's clear that self diagnosis of heartburn isn't always a good idea...often that pain in your chest can be a case of GERD, or worse, a heart attack. The bottom line is, it's important to make an appointment with your doctor if you experience heartburn more than several times a month, or if you have concerns about acid reflux.