Heartburn isn’t uncommon. For many people, it’s something they experience occasionally, maybe after eating a particularly spicy meal or going to bed after eating a large meal. But, if you’re part of the 20% of the population with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn is a chronic or recurrent problem.
GERD occurs when stomach acids — and sometimes food — moves backwards from your stomach into your esophagus, usually because the valve at the end of your esophagus is weaker than it should be. Without proper GERD treatment, you could wind up with permanent esophageal damage and even have an increased risk for cancer.
While heartburn is a characteristic symptom of GERD, it’s not the only sign you need to be aware of. The team at Digestive Disease Specialists wants you to know about these other seven symptoms that could mean you have GERD.
1. Regurgitation of food or stomach acid
This is more or less the definition of GERD — reflux or backwards flow of food and acid into your esophagus. For some people, the reflux is so strong that it may force food and acids all the way into the throat or mouth.
2. Chest pain
Chest discomfort with GERD can feel like a sharp pain, but often, it feels like a dull, burning soreness or aching that’s centered over your stomach in the center of your chest. Chest pain can also be a sign of a heart attack, so it should never be ignored.
Normally, the valve at the end of your esophagus is strong enough to keep food and acids in your stomach and out of your esophagus. But in GERD, the valve allows food to move upward, which can lead to feelings of nausea and even vomiting in some cases. Some people with GERD tend to swallow more air when eating, which can also lead to nausea.
4. Swallowing problems
Many people with GERD have problems swallowing while eating. Sometimes, they may feel like food is “stuck” in their esophagus. In more severe cases, they may feel a need to vomit in order to clear what feels like an obstruction.
5. Sore throat
Stomach acids flowing backward into your esophagus and throat is a hallmark of GERD. Not surprisingly, those acids irritate your throat, making it sore. Irritation can also lead to a dry cough in some people.
6. Hoarse voice
A sore throat isn’t the only consequence of refluxing stomach acids. Those acids can also irritate your larynx (voice box). If you have a chronically hoarse voice along with any of these other symptoms, there’s a good chance GERD is to blame.
7. Chronic bad breath
When food and acids reflux, they carry odors with them. Some people with GERD find they have chronic bad breath or a recurring sour taste.
Find relief for your GERD
It may be tempting to think you can simply treat GERD symptoms by popping antacids or other acid-controlling, over-the-counter medicines to stop or prevent them from happening. But if you find yourself using these products on a regular basis to fight chronic GERD symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor.
Without prompt medical care, stomach acids can quickly erode your esophageal tissue, making it more prone to esophageal cancer. Plus, GERD may be a sign of another underlying problem that may cause other serious complications.
GERD treatment may involve medicine or lifestyle changes. Often, it involves both. To learn how we can help you manage your GERD symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone at our offices in Moline, Illinois, or Davenport, Iowa, today.