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Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

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GERD symptoms can occur at any time. However, they usually occur after overeating, or lying down after a big meal. Symptoms may last for a few minutes or a few hours.

Heartburn


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The most common symptoms of GERD include:

  • Heartburn—a burning feeling that starts in the lower chest and may move up the throat
  • Frequent, persistent, recurrent, or chronic indigestion. Symptoms of indigestion include:
    • Upper abdominal pain or discomfort following a meal
    • Burping, bloating, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting
  • Regurgitation of stomach contents into the back of the mouth or throat
  • Sour or bitter taste in the back of mouth or throat

Other symptoms of GERD may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic cough
  • Choking
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Chest pain Note: GERD can feel like the pain associated with a heart attack. Do not assume that chest pain is GERD or indigestion. If you have chest pains or other symptoms of a possible heart attack, call for medical help immediately for emergency medical care.
  • Recurrent vomiting or failure to thrive in infants

Long-term complications of GERD may include:

  • Esophagitis—inflammation of the esophagus
  • Bleeding and ulcers in the esophagus
  • Dental problems, which may occur because of the effect of stomach acid on tooth enamel
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Asthma attacks and/or pneumonia—during sleep acid refluxes from the stomach into the throat, then drains into the lungs, causing irritation
  • Barrett’s esophagus—a precancerous condition that can lead to esophageal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer—may develop in patients who have Barrett’s esophagus

References:

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 29, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2013.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal_disorders/esophageal_and_swallowing_disorders/gastroesophageal_reflux_disease_gerd.html. Updated May 2012. Accessed April 30, 2013.

Heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux (GER), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed April 30, 2013.

Katz PO, Gerson LB, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):302-328.

Understanding heartburn and reflux disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/heartburn-gerd. Published April 25, 2010. Accessed April 30, 2010.



Last reviewed March 2014 by Daus Mahnke, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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