GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a common condition that causes discomfort in the chest and throat areas. It is a chronic digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid moves back into the esophagus. GERD can lead to esophageal inflammation, heartburn, and even damage to the tooth enamel. It is essential to recognize the symptoms of GERD to detect the disease early and provide proper treatment.
7 Tell-Tale Symptoms of GERD You Shouldn’t Ignore
GERD symptoms are often mistaken for other medical conditions like chest pain or heartburn. Here are seven common symptoms of GERD:
Regurgitation is the feeling of food returning to the throat after swallowing. This symptom occurs when the stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, irritating the lining. Regurgitation can lead to bad breath and a sour taste in the mouth.
Dysphagia is difficulty swallowing or feeling like food is stuck in the throat. This symptom develops if the esophagus becomes narrow or hardened due to chronic inflammation secondary to GERD. Dysphagia requires immediate medical attention to prevent complications.
3. Chest pain
Chest pain could be a sign of GERD and may be felt after eating or lying down. The chest pain might be dull and persistent or sharp and sudden. It is important to differentiate this from angina or heart attack as the presentations can be similar.
4. Chronic dry cough
Coughing is the body’s way of removing irritants from the respiratory system. GERD can cause chronic coughing, especially at night, disrupting sleep patterns and leading to sleep deprivation.
5. Sore throat
Sore throat is a common symptom of GERD caused by the acid reflux irritating the throat lining. The soreness may also be due to inflammation from the acid reflux or due to infections like tonsillitis and pharyngitis secondary to GERD.
6. Hoarseness or laryngitis
Hoarseness is the harshness or croakiness of the voice due to inflammation of the vocal cords resulting from the reflux of stomach acid into the voice box. Laryngitis, on the other hand, refers to the inflammation of the voice box’s entire lining, causing hoarseness and difficulty speaking.
7. Dental problems
GERD can cause enamel erosion, leading to dental cavities and potential tooth loss. The condition can also cause a dry mouth, making teeth more vulnerable to decay.
Ignoring these GERD symptoms can lead to potential complications that can impact one’s quality of life negatively.
Is It Just Heartburn? Understanding the Symptoms of GERD
One of the most challenging aspects of GERD is distinguishing it from heartburn, which is a symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a burning sensation in the chest that can extend to the throat and is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. Other symptoms of GERD that don’t present in heartburn include:
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
If any of these symptoms occur with heartburn, it might be an indication of GERD and require prompt medical attention.
GERD Symptoms: From Mild Heartburn to Severe Chest Pain
GERD symptoms can vary in their frequency and severity. They can range from mild heartburn to severe chest pains that mimic a heart attack. Here are some examples of mild and severe GERD symptoms:
Mild GERD symptoms
- Occasional heartburn after eating
- Mild regurgitation
- Infrequent coughing
- Occasional difficulty swallowing
Severe GERD symptoms
- Recurring heartburn that persists despite medication
- Severe regurgitation
- Chronic coughing at night
If severe symptoms persist, the patient should seek the advice of a medical professional to avoid further complications such as esophageal strictures or Barrett’s esophagus.
5 Indicators You Might Have GERD and How to Deal With Them
GERD indicators can be more subtle, which makes it challenging to diagnose. Here are some specific indicators that might suggest GERD:
- Frequent acid reflux or heartburn
- Difficulty swallowing, especially dry and hard foods
- Chronic throat or chest discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting, especially in the morning
- Sore throat or a hoarse voice that persists longer than usual
GERD can be managed with proper self-care tips and medication. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Elevate your head while sleeping to prevent the reflux of stomach contents into your esophagus
- Avoid lying down after eating, as this can precipitate the symptoms of GERD
- Avoid spicy, acidic, and fatty foods that potentially trigger GERD symptoms
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
- Antacids and Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can be used to alleviate symptoms as prescribed by medical providers
GERD Signs: How to Identify and Treat Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
The diagnosis of GERD is based on the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination. The doctor might also conduct additional tests to rule out other conditions such as acid reflux or peptic ulcer disease. Here are a few diagnostic tests used in identifying GERD:
This test involves inserting an endoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a camera, into the patient’s mouth to visualize the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine. The endoscope can detect any inflammation, ulcers, or structural abnormalities.
In this test, a pH sensor is inserted into the lower part of the patient’s esophagus, recording the acidity of the stomach contents regularly. The test can evaluate the effectiveness of medication and assess the extent of acid reflux.
Treatment for GERD focuses on reducing symptoms, healing damaged tissues, and preventing complications. The treatment may include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Antacids and PPIs
- Surgery to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent reflux
It is essential to take medication and follow self-care tips for better symptom management.
The Most Common Symptoms of GERD and How to Alleviate Them
GERD can cause numerous symptoms, and the most common symptoms are:
- Chest pain
The key to managing GERD is by understanding the triggers and symptoms of GERD. Here are some strategies and treatments for alleviating GERD symptoms:
- Manage stress levels by practicing stress-relieving techniques such as yoga and meditation.
- Take medication as prescribed by a medical professional.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes that press on the stomach and increase acid reflux.
- Eat smaller, frequent meals throughout the day instead of large meals.
GERD is a common condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s daily life. Recognizing the symptoms of GERD is critical to receiving prompt treatment and preventing complications. A combination of lifestyle changes and medications can effectively alleviate GERD symptoms. However, it is important to seek medical attention if the symptoms persist or worsen to prevent complications that can lead to severe discomfort or even surgery.