Understanding GERD Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of GERD?

Chronic acid reflux leads to uncomplicated GERD, but not everyone with GERD has heartburn. The primary symptoms of GERD are heartburn, regurgitation, and nausea.

Heartburn usually is described as a burning pain in the middle of the chest. It may start high in the abdomen or may extend up into the neck. Sometimes the pain may be sharp or pressure-like, rather than burning. Such pain can mimic heart pain (angina). In other patients, the pain may extend to the back. Typically heartburn related to GERD is seen more commonly after a meal. Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • Hoarseness. If acid reflux gets past the upper esophageal sphincter, it can enter the throat (pharynx) and even the voice box (larynx), causing hoarseness or a sore throat.
  • Laryngitis
  • Nausea
  • Sore throat
  • Chronic dry cough, especially at night. GERD is a common cause of unexplained coughing. It is not clear how cough is caused or aggravated by GERD.
  • Asthma. Some of these nerves that are stimulated by the refluxed acid stimulate the nerves to the lungs, which then can cause the smaller breathing tubes to narrow, resulting in an attack of asthma.
  • Feeling as if there is a lump in your throat
  • Bad breath
  • Earaches
  • Chest pain/discomfort

In infants and children, GERD can produce these symptoms:

  • Recurrent vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Breathing problems
  • A failure to thrive

Call Your Doctor About GERD If:

  • You take over-the-counter medicine for heartburn more than twice a week, or your heartburn symptoms persist after you take the drug.
  • You need to take medications for more than three weeks to control heartburn and indigestion.
  • Your symptoms also include weight loss, difficulty or pain swallowing, dark-colored stools, or vomiting.

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National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Merck Medicus.
Reviewed by Venkat Mohan, MD on November 02, 2010
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