Acid reflux, also known as GERD, is such a common problem in the U.S. affecting roughly 20% of the population, so one would assume that it should be fairly easy to treat, right? However, sometimes symptoms of acid reflux disease are not as straightforward as you would assume them to be.
While you may be aware of acid reflux symptoms like throat lump or acid reflux symptoms throat tightening or chest pain, oftentimes symptoms of acid reflux are less than obvious to spot and can easily be mistaken for something entirely else.
So, let’s clear the doubts once and for all! Below are all the gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms and signs you need to know of, if you suspect you may be suffering from the disease.
One of the most common symptoms of acid reflux disease, heartburn feels like a burning sensation along the breastbone that often begins soon after eating. The feeling worsens if you bend down or lie down, as stomach acids and other stomach contents back up into the esophagus. It may or may not cause lasting injury to the esophagus, depending on the frequency and severity.
Dyspepsia manifests as discomfort or a burning feeling in the upper abdomen. It can cause gastric pain, bloating, nausea, burping and vomiting. Highly uncomfortable, dyspepsia must be discussed with your doctor and suitably treated as soon as possible.
Among symptoms of acid reflux, chest pain is quite common. In fact, the pain is often mistaken for a heart attack. When excess stomach acid splashes into the esophagus, it sometimes results in an intense pain in the chest. However, it is best to never ignore chest pain. Seek medical advice if the pain is very intense, especially if it worsens when you exert yourself.
If your stomach starts paining right after a meal, you may be suffering from heartburn. However, fixing this acid reflux symptom with home remedies has a high success rate. Avoid eating big, fatty meals and try a meal-splitting strategy to avoid overloading your stomach with a big digestion task. Also, avoid reclining/lying down after a meal to prevent post-meal pain.
Another common symptom of acid reflux disease, this is the reason that acid reflux can interfere with sleep. When in a supine position, the lower esophageal sphincter easily opens up to allow food and acid in the stomach to travel back into the esophagus. Sitting upright allows gravity to work on keeping food and acid in the stomach until digestion is complete. If you notice that your GERD symptoms worsen when lying down, elevate the head of your bed by 3 inches.
Have you heard of throat tightening as a symptom of acid reflux? It is easy to mistake as the early stages of a cold, but stomach acid traveling back up can irritate the esophageal lining, causing hoarseness in voice. This is the kind of hoarseness that will not get better with repeated hot water gargling or sipping on hot teas, which is how you can also identify it (instead of thinking it to be the beginning of a cold or a throat infection).
Acid reflux symptoms like throat lump and blocked, painful ears from acid seeping into esophagus are also common. You may think your sore throat may be a result of a respiratory infection or cold, but it can actually be caused by gastric problems. Notice if your throat hurts particularly after eating your meals—that’s a clear indication that acid reflux is to be blamed. Also, if you don’t develop other flu-like symptoms like sneezing and coughing, but only have soreness in the throat and blocked ears, it’s a classic sign of GERD.
The backwash of stomach acids can rise all the way to the back of your throat, resulting in a yucky bitter and sometimes sour taste in the mouth. You may also feel a burning sensation in your throat accompanying the funny taste in your mouth – another classic symptom of acid reflux.
One of the rarer symptoms of acid reflux disease, esophageal cramps can be scary. An esophageal spasm manifests as an intense chest-filling pain and is a result of uncontrolled contractions of the esophageal muscles. Gastric acid that gushes into the esophagus as a result of GERD is a common aggravator for esophageal cramps and pains.
If you are coughing and wheezing, don’t automatically assume you have a respiratory infection. These can also be another symptom of acid reflux disease, especially if you have a chronic cough that has been lingering for weeks and worsens after a meal or during nighttime. A backsplash of stomach acid can sometimes get into the lungs, causing asthma-like symptoms. However, left untreated, the coughing and wheezing from heartburn can become triggers for asthma.
Nausea is associated with so many disorders, it can sometimes be too difficult to identify as another symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Believe it or not, sometimes it is the only symptom of acid reflux in patients who have only recently been afflicted with the disease. Notice if your nausea comes directly after eating a big meal, as that is a tell-tale sign of GERD. Sometimes nausea may also be accompanied by vomiting. You will notice the distinctive taste and burning caused by stomach acid during vomiting.
When acid reflux has gone untreated for long, the continuous onslaught of acid backwash in the throat and mouth can result in trouble swallowing. The lower-esophagus tissue swells, narrowing the esophagus can causing difficulty swallowing.
Often known as water brash, extra salivation is highly suggestive of GERD. Your mouth starts to produce more saliva to wash out the irritating acid from the mouth and esophagus.
PMS is often accompanied by abdominal bloating and hormonal changes that may relax the esophageal sphincter, causing a gastritis attack. The increased levels of progesterone post ovulation are to blame here. The acidic contents of your stomach will irritate the esophagus, resulting in heartburn.
Stomach acid making its way into the mouth from gastroesophageal reflux disease may cause tongue burn. This is especially common when stomach acids travel all the way back into the mouth, or in those who suffer from GERD-induced vomiting.
1) Gastroesophageal reflux among different racial groups in the United States – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15188164
2) Gastroesophageal reflux disease: From pathophysiology to treatment – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921084/
3) Lifestyle factors affecting gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms: a cross-sectional study of healthy 19864 adults using FSSG scores – http://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-7015-10-45
4) Current Trends in the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: A Review – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401535/