Most people have experienced the symptoms of heartburn at one time or another. Perhaps you ate too much just before bed and awoke to a burning sensation in your chest. You may have even had some regurgitation of stomach acid into your throat and mouth. While unpleasant, these symptoms are easily treated with antacids or home remedies for most. It’s only an occasional occurrence and is given little thought after the discomfort passes. However, for sufferers of acid reflux disease, these symptoms and others can become a regular occurrence.
When heartburn becomes more persistent, occurring two or more times a week, or if it is resistant to medications, it’s time to see a specialist. Additionally, there are several other symptoms that may suggest acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). While these symptoms may not be as disruptive as heartburn, they also point to this chronic digestive disorder and should be addressed.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
1. Bloating and Belching
Frequent swallowing is common with a sore throat or when stomach acid begins to back up into the esophagus. This may lead to swallowing more air, a feeling of being bloated, and frequent belching. This bloating and belching may also be related to inflammation of the stomach lining caused by H. Pylori the bacterium responsible for some stomach ulcers. Quick fixes to reduce belching include:
- Eating and drinking slowly
- Avoid Carbonation and Alcohol
- Avoid gum and hard candy
- Don’t smoke
- Ensure your dentures fit (poorly fitting dentures can cause you to swallow excess air when you eat and drink.)
- Treat heartburn
Some individuals with GERD may not experience heartburn at all. Rather, they may experience symptoms such as nausea and even severe chest pains.
Lifestyle changes in order to help with this include:
- Loose-fitting clothing
- Stay upright while eating
- Elevating your head while you sleep
- Stop smoking
3. Chest Pain
Chest pain in association with GERD is caused when stomach bile enters the esophagus. This pain can sometimes be so severe that it is mistaken for a heart attack. It is critical that chest pain is never ignored and that medical attention is sought immediately when it occurs.
4. Coughing and Wheezing
Respiratory symptoms are somewhat common with GERD. Irritation to the throat and even stomach acid making its way into the lungs can lead to a chronic cough or wheezing.
5. Difficulty Swallowing
Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia can appear when the continuous cycle of acid reflux causes scarring and narrowing of the esophagus. Swallowing can become painful, and sufferers may feel as though they have a lump in their throat.
6. Sore Throat
As with chest pains or difficulty swallowing, the repeated damage to the lining of the esophagus may also cause a persistent sore throat. This may or may not also be accompanied by hoarseness of the voice.
Hiccups occur with involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, which separates the chest from the abdomen, and are often found in conjunction with acid reflux.
If you find that you are suffering from any of these symptoms on a regular basis, it may be time to see your physician. Even in the absence of typical heartburn sensations, it is possible to be suffering from GERD. A specialist such as a gastroenterologist will be able to determine if your symptoms are due to GERD and can recommend treatment options to bring relief.
If you are ready to schedule an appointment with one of the Gastroenterology Associates physicians, or you would simply like more information on this condition, please contact our office. To learn more about GERD, you may also click the image below for our free guide.