Symptoms of GERD
In this article, you will find out what the symptoms of GERD (Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease) are, including both short-term and long-term symptoms.
What Is GERD?
GERD is the medical term for what amounts to frequent acid reflux, or heartburn. This term has been gaining popularity of late for two reasons: rates of reflux have increased and strong links between regular reflux and esophageal damage and cancer have been identified.
In essence, heartburn sounds quite benign whereas GERD sounds serious to the average person; the term GERD helps people recognize that having chronic acid reflux is not a normal condition and can lead to some devastating side effects.
Short-Term GERD Symptoms
GERD is, by definition, the frequent occurrence of reflux. The symptoms of acid reflux are:
- A burning pain in the chest
- Burping, especially belching up small amounts of food or a bitter or sour liquid
Long-Term Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms
After experiencing reflux regularly, some more serious symptoms of GERD may develop, including:
- Difficulty swallowing
- A “tight” feeling in the throat, as if something is stuck in the throat (perhaps caused by an esophageal stricture or damage to the lining of the esophagus)
- Dry, chronic cough, which is often confused for asthma or allergies
- Sore throat, especially in the morning. A chronic dry cough and sore throat that never seems to improve can indicate long periods of nighttime reflux.
These two symptoms often develop after experiencing acid reflux for an extended period of time (i.e. several times per week for a few months or longer). These two symptoms of GERD are signs of the long-term consequences of reflux.
Effects of GERD Symptoms
If GERD is left untreated, esophageal damage may result given the repeated exposure of the sensitive tissue to stomach acid. This can result in:
- Barrett’s Esophagus – Barrett’s Esophagus has no symptoms; this condition is where the cells of the bottom portion of the esophagus change to become like the cells in the stomach. This reduces the damage they take from stomach acid exposure. The problem with this is that this mutation significantly increases the risk of these cells become cancerous in the future.
- Esophageal Adenocarcinoma – this esophageal cancer is highly linked to both Barrett’s Esophagus and GERD. It is rare but a very serious condition.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience acid reflux or heartburn symptoms regularly, you will want to talk to your doctor.
While all doctors are different, most doctors will consider acid reflux occurring twice a week or more to warrant medical intervention, regardless of whether or not you have more serious GERD symptoms. There is no need to wait for you to develop difficulty swallowing (or worse) if it could be prevented in the first place.
Symptoms of GERD Conclusion
The hallmark symptom of GERD is experiencing heartburn two or more times per week. Acid reflux occurring this frequently should be reported to your doctor. If left untreated, GERD may lead to difficulty swallowing, esophageal damage, and even cancer.
While not adequate as a stand-alone treatment for GERD symptoms, be sure to check out these simple heartburn remedies can help reduce the discomfort associated with reflux and offer mild protection to the esophagus.