Symptoms and Signs of Heartburn (GERD)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 1/21/2020

Doctor's Notes on Heartburn (GERD)

Heartburn is an uncomfortable feeling of burning, heat or warmth in the chest and sometimes termed acid indigestion. Signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Burning feeling in chest (often after eating)
  • Chest pain (especially after eating, bending over or lying down)
  • Burning in throat
  • Hot and acidic fluid at the back of the throat (sometimes including a sour and/or salty taste)
  • Difficulty swallowing (due to scar formation from repeated heartburn attacks)
  • Feeling of food stuck in the throat or chest

The cause of heartburn is the upward or reverse movement (reflux) of stomach acid into the esophagus. The esophagus is not protected from acid, unlike the stomach. There are many risk factors and/or causes of heartburn including

Heartburn pain/discomfort may mimic the chest pain that can occur with a heart attack. If you are not sure if the discomfort/pain in the chest is due to heartburn, call 911. If the "heartburn" is associated with other symptoms like shortness of breath, weakness, pale skin, sweating, nausea/vomiting, and is not similar to previous heartburn symptoms, call 911.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.