GERD - Symptoms To Be Aware Of

Published: 21st March 2012
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What is GERD? Symptoms vary from one individual to another, but GERD is a stomach complaint where the contents of the stomach can be refluxed back up into the esophagus.

The main symptoms of GERD are heartburn, regurgitation and nausea, although there are other symptoms that can be present with GERD. Not everyone will have the same combination of symptom.

Reflux / Regurgitation

Most people who suffer from GERD have some reflux where contents of the stomach are refluxed or regurgitated into the esophagus. In the majority of cases, stomach acid is only refluxed into the lower esophagus leading to acid indigestion or heartburn. Some people experience stomach acid being refluxed into the top of the esophagus and it can even reach the back of the mouth. In cases where there is regular reflux of stomach contents into the mouth some dental erosion can take place caused by the acid.

Acid Indigestion / Heartburn

Reflux can cause heartburn with stomach acid being regurgitated or refluxed into the esophagus causing burning to the lining. This can be very painful, usually talked of as a burning pain in the middle of the chest, just behind the sternum. The sensation can also extend up the neck into the back of the throat. Some sufferers describe the pain as feeling like a pressure in the chest, a sharp pain and it is often confused with a heart condition such as angina.

Heartburn normally happens soon after eating, simply because this is when the most stomach acid is produced and because of the increased pressure in our stomachs it is also when when acid is likely to be refluxed back into the esophagus. It also happens frequently when we sleep.

Nocturnal reflux leading to heartburn comes about because when we lie down it is easier for stomach acid to be regurgitated. Production of saliva also slows down at night as does our swallow reflex, letting refluxed acid to remain in contact with the esophageal lining for longer. This can also lead to acid being aspirated into the lungs at night causing damage to the lining of the lungs.

Vomiting / Nausea

Although one of the more uncommon symptoms of GERD, unexplained nausea or vomiting are both considered possible symptoms.

Throat Inflammation

When stomach acid is refluxed into the throat, it can attack the lining, larynx and voice box leading to damage to the voice box. This can lead to patients experiencing hoarseness in the mornings.


Inflammation of the esophageal lining caused by regurgitated acid from the stomach is known as esophagitis.

Ulcerated Esophagus / Esophageal Ulcers

In cases where esophagitis is particularly severe, the lining of the esophagus can develop ulcers with small areas of the lining destroyed by the burning effect of stomach acid. In severe cases where the ulcers become further eroded by acid, it can develop into bleeding in the esophagus.

Esophageal Strictures

As the esophageal lining mends it can develop scar tissue resulting in strictures of the esophagus. The scar tissue isn't as flexible and often builds up narrowing the esophagus making it difficult to swallow. This is known as dysphagia.

Asthma like symptoms and coughs

When the esophagus is damaged it can lead to a chronic dry cough in some GERD sufferers. In some cases stomach acid can be breathed into the lungs (aspirated) leading to damage to the lining of the lungs. If this is allowed to continue this can lead to chest infections, scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis) and pneumonia

Barrett's Esophagus

In prolonged or severe cases of acid reflux the lining of the esophagus can start to change to resemble the stomach lining. Stomachs have a mucus membrane that neutralizes the effects of stomach acid. In people who have developed Barretts, the cells in the lower esophagus mutate to resemble the cells of the stomach wall in response to the repeated exposure to acid. As cells change they can be left susceptible to cancer developing and there is an increased incidence of cancer of the esophagus in people with Barrett's Esophagus.

Most cases of GERD can be treated effectively through changes in lifestyle and medication. Where this fails to be effective there are a number of surgical procedures that can be used to help.


If you would like more information on Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disese The Symptoms of GERD, and its causes, and treatment visit

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