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.
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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
- Chronic cough
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Difficulty or painful swallowing
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
—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
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. 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, Vela MF. 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 April 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD; Brian Randall, 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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