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What are the common symptoms of GERD?

Chronic heartburn is the most frequently reported symptom of GERD. Acid regurgitation (refluxed acid into the mouth) is another common symptom, sometimes associated with sour or bitter taste.

Can symptoms other than heartburn be signs of GERD?

Numerous symptoms other than heartburn are associated with GERD. These may include belching, difficulty or pain when swallowing, or waterbrash (sudden excess of saliva).

An alarming symptom needing prompt medical attention is dysphagia (the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus).

Other GERD symptoms may involve chronic sore throat, laryngitis, throat clearing, chronic cough, and other oral complaints such as inflammation of the gums and erosion of the enamel of the teeth. Small amounts of acid can reflux into the back of the throat or into the lungs and cause irritation.

Hoarseness in the morning, a sour taste, or bad breath may be clues of GERD. Chronic asthma, cough, wheezing, and noncardiac chest pain, (it may feel like angina) may be due to GERD. People with these symptoms often have less frequent or even absent typical symptoms of GERD such as heartburn.

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Chest pain or chest pressure may indicate acid reflux. Nevertheless, this kind of pain or discomfort should prompt urgent medical evaluation. Possible heart conditions must always be excluded first.

When seeing a doctor, relief or improvement of symptoms after a two-week trial therapy with a proton pump inhibitor (a prescription medication that inhibits gastric acid secretion) is an indication that GERD is the likely cause. This can also be confirmed with pH monitoring, which measures the level of acid refluxing into the esophagus and as high as the larynx.

Adapted from IFFGD Publication: GERD Questions and Answers. Revised 2010 by Ronnie Fass, MD, Chair, Division of GI and Hepatology, Metro Health Medical Center, Cleveland, OH. Original Contributors: Joel E. Richter, MD, Philip O. Katz, MD, and J. Patrick Waring, M.D. Editor: William F. Norton, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Milwaukee, WI.

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