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How to Know If You Have GERD

How to Know If You Have GERD

GERD, while not a life-threatening condition on its own, can lead to some serious complications. But by knowing the common signs and symptoms of GERD, you can get yourself checked and get treated for your condition.

What Is GERD?

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Its most common symptom is acid reflux, or what is also known as heartburn, that occurs at least twice a week.

Acid reflux happens when the contents of a person’s stomach, usually stomach acids, unexpectedly go up into the esophagus. This can cause a lot of pain and a burning sensation, especially since the esophagus cannot handle acid reflux.

The biggest problem with GERD is that because it is a chronic condition, it can damage the esophagus over time. It can cause

  • Ulcers
  • Damage to the lining of the esophagus
  • An increase in a person’s risk for esophageal cancer

This is why it is important to know the common signs and symptoms of GERD so that you can seek treatment immediately.

Heartburn or GERD: What’s the Difference?

Common Signs and Symptoms of GERD

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of GERD:

Chronic Heartburn

The most common symptom of GERD is having chronic heartburn. If you experience heartburn two times a week, then there is a big possibility that you may have GERD.

If you experience heartburn often, even without eating foods that can trigger your condition, it would be a good idea to visit a doctor to get checked.

Chest Pain

Another common symptom among people with GERD is chest pain. This happens when stomach acid goes up the chest and damages the esophagus. Some people describe the chest pain as a burning sensation, similar to heartburn. But there are some cases wherein it feels like a sharp pain near the breastbone that radiates to the back.

Over time, the pain can worsen as acid reflux starts to damage the esophagus. Taking antacids can sometimes help, but doctors usually prescribe medicine that helps reduce the amount of acids produced by the stomach. The less acid there is in the stomach, the lower the chances of having acid reflux.

Difficulty Swallowing

Difficulty swallowing is one of the common signs and symptoms of GERD. This happens when the esophagus gets inflamed as a result of chronic acid reflux.

Sometimes, people with GERD may feel that they have a lump in their throat, or a feeling of tightness or choking when they swallow food.

Burping

Another symptom of GERD is burping. This happens because of a buildup of gas that happens because the stomach is inflamed. In some cases, this can also be caused by a bacteria called H. pylori.

In some cases, burping can even cause acid reflux, which makes this a very uncomfortable symptom of GERD.

Nausea

Inside your ear is a tube called the eustachian tube that helps control the pressure between the inner and outer ear. This part of your ear is also responsible for balance, and you can feel nauseous if there’s something wrong with the eustachian tube.

For people with GERD, stomach acids can sometimes go up into the eustachian tube since it is connected to your nasal passages. When this happens, you can experience nausea and dizziness as a result.

Vomiting

Vomiting is another one of the common signs and symptoms of GERD. This can either be the result of nausea because of an irritated eustachian tube or because your stomach and esophagus are irritated.

Vomiting can also sometimes happen when you burp while having an acid reflux attack. This can be particularly painful.

This can be managed by having more meals with smaller servings to prevent your stomach from getting too full. In some cases, taking an antacid can help prevent vomiting.

Sour Taste in the Mouth

During an acid reflux attack, the acid can sometimes go up from your stomach into your mouth. This can leave a particularly nasty, sour taste. In some cases, this can even cause a burning sensation in your throat and mouth.

Taking an antacid can help ease the pain and remove the sour taste in your mouth.

Chronic Cough

Among the more common signs and symptoms of GERD is chronic cough. In particular, GERD causes an unexplained dry cough because it irritates your esophagus and throat.

In some cases, this cough can even cause hoarseness in your voice or sore throat.

common signs and symptoms of gerd

How Is GERD Diagnosed?

Diagnosing GERD can be complex. Together with studying a patient’s medical history, doctors use the following methods:

  • They can check the pH level of your esophagus. If it is acidic, then that means you may have had chronic acid reflux attacks.
  • An endoscopy, or a procedure wherein a camera is put down your throat to check your esophagus and stomach. An endoscopy is indicated when there are signs of obstruction, weight loss, anemia, heme-positive stool or more than 5-10 years of symptoms.

For the most part, an endoscopy or checking the pH level of your esophagus are usually enough to tell if you have GERD or not. If you have this condition, then your doctor will prescribe you medication and give you advice on how to best manage this condition.

Key Takeaways

Common signs and symptoms of GERD are quite uncomfortable, and you should seek medical attention for proper diagnosis. Your doctor can put you on a more focused treatment plan based on your condition.

Learn more about Digestive Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

GERD Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore | Northwestern Medicine, https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/gerd-symptoms-you-shouldnt-ignore, Accessed July 30 2020

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – Physiopedia, https://www.physio-pedia.com/Gastroesophageal_Reflux_Disease#:~:text=Common%20Symptoms%3A,Abdominal%20bloating%2FAbdominal%20discomfort, Accessed July 30 2020

Symptoms | Stanford Health Care, https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/digestion-and-metabolic-health/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-gerd/symptoms.html, Accessed July 30 2020

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940, Accessed July 30 2020

Diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4133436/, Accessed July 30 2020

Diagnosis of GER & GERD | NIDDK, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/diagnosis, Accessed July 30 2020

GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux) Diagnosis and Tests | Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17019-gerd-or-acid-reflux-or-heartburn-overview/diagnosis-and-tests, Accessed July 30 2020

GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux), https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17019-gerd-or-acid-reflux-or-heartburn-overview, Accessed July 30 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Jun 07
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.
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