• Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

    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. People who have possible symptoms of GERD should seek medical care.
    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
    • Symptoms worsen when bending over, lying down, exercising, or lifting heavy objects
    Other symptoms of GERD may include:
    • Sore throat or earache
    • Bad breath
    • Hoarseness
    • Chronic cough
    • Choking
    • Wheezing or trouble breathing
    • Insomnia
    • Feeling of a lump in the throat
    • Hoarse voice ( laryngitis )
    • 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 911 immediately for emergency medical care.
    • Sleep apnea (stopping breathing repeatedly throughout the night)
    • 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 (due to the effect of stomach acid on tooth enamel)
    • Chronic laryngitis
    • Asthma attacks and/or pneumonia (During sleep, acid may reflux from the stomach into the throat, drain into the lungs, and cause 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

    American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.

    The Merck Manual of Medical Information . 17th edition. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.

    The Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.ctsnet.org/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.

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