Regular heartburn is the main symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a feeling of burning behind the breastbone. It can occur at anytime, but is often aggravated by overeating or lying down after a big meal. Many also have regurgitation, a feeling of food and fluid moving back up the throat or into the mouth.
The fluids from the stomach can cause:
- Sour or bitter taste in the back of mouth or throat
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Bad breath
The regular reflux of stomach acid can cause irritation of the tissue and other structures of the throat. This irritation can lead to other symptoms, such as:
- Sore throat
- Chronic laryngitis
- Chronic cough
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Excessive clearing of throat
Infants with GERD may also have recurrent vomiting. This can affect their ability to get proper nutrition and slow growth and development.
Long-term complications of GERD may include:
- Inflammation of the esphagus—esophagitis
- Bleeding and ulcers in the esophagus
- Narrowing of the esophagus—esophageal stricture
- Dental problems, which may occur because of the effect of stomach acid on tooth enamel
- Asthma attacks
- During sleep, acid refluxes from the stomach into the throat, then drains into the lungs—aspiration pneumonia
- A precancerous condition that can lead to esophageal cancer— Barrett’s esophagus
- Esophageal cancer
The muscles of the esophagus can tighten or spasm. This can cause pain that radiates through the chest and back, similar to how a heart attack may feel. Do not assume that chest pain is an esophageal spasm.
If you have chest pains or other symptoms of a possible heart attack, call for emergency medical services right away.
- Squeezing or chest pressure
- Pain in the left shoulder, left arm, or jaw
- Trouble breathing
- Sweating, clammy skin
- Pain that starts during activity or stress
- Feeling of impending doom
- Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 06/2016 -
- Update Date: 05/20/2015 -