Heartburn is a condition that occurs when the backward flow of stomach acid (acid reflux) causes the esophagus to become irritated. It is an exceptionally common condition in adults and particularly pregnant women. As many as one in five people in this country experience occasional heartburn, while many others have chronic heartburn that qualifies as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While heartburn isn’t harmful when it occurs on an irregular basis, GERD sufferers can be at risk for a pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. Most people describe their heartburn as a burning sensation that occurs in the chest or upper abdomen and sometimes doesn’t go away for hours. This discomfort may be worse when lying down and may be accompanied by a sore throat, coughing and the feeling that something is stuck in the throat. Heartburn can be treated with over-the-counter and prescription medications that stop or significantly reduce acid production. Surgical interventions may be considered when a person’s heartburn is chronic and doesn’t respond to less invasive treatment methods.