Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Regular heartburn is the main symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a feeling of burning behind the breastbone. It’s often made worse by overeating or lying down after a big meal. Many people also have regurgitation. This is a feeling of food and fluid moving back up to the back of the throat or into the mouth.
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The fluids from the stomach can cause:
- Sour or bitter taste
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Bad breath
Regular backflow of stomach acid causes problems in the throat and structures around it. This can lead to:
- Sore throat
- Long term laryngitis
- Long term cough
- Wheezing or breathing problems
- Clearing your throat often
Babies with GERD may also have cycles of vomiting. This can keep them from getting the nutrients they need. Without them, their growth will slow down.
Long term problems:
- Esophageal inflammation—esophagitis
- Esophageal bleeding and sores
- Narrowing— esophageal stricture
- Stomach acid wears away the enamel on your teeth
- Asthma attacks
- During sleep, acid refluxes from the stomach into the throat, then drains into the lungs—this can lead to aspiration pneumonia
- Acid changes the esophageal cells— Barrett esophagus
- Esophageal cancer
Esophageal muscles can tighten or spasm. This can cause pain that moves through the chest and back. It feels like close to what a heart attack may feel like. Don't assume you’re not having a heart attack. Call for emergency medical services right away.
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Merck Manual Professional Version. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/esophageal-and-swallowing-disorders/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd. Updated April 2018. Accessed August 20, 2018.
Katz PO, Gerson LB, Velva MF. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):302-328.
Symptoms & causes of GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/symptoms-causes. Updated November 2014. Accessed August 20, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 8/20/2018