The most common symptoms of GERD are heartburn and stomach acids coming up into the esophagus. People sometimes describe heartburn as chest pain or burning under the breastbone.
Regurgitation is another common symptom. It occurs in 80% of people with GERD, with its severity varying among individuals.
People describe regurgitation as a sour taste or the feeling of fluid moving up and down in the chest.
The third most common symptom of GERD is difficulty swallowing. About 50% of people with GERD report experiencing food sticking in the chest or not going down the esophagus properly.
Other, less frequent symptoms of GERD include:
When a person experiences heartburn, they may first try managing their symptoms with OTC medications. If these remedies do not provide relief, the person should consult a doctor.
Anyone experiencing severe symptoms that affect their quality of life should seek medical attention.
People should also seek medical attention if GERD symptoms:
- last longer than 3 months with severe or nighttime heartburn
- persist after taking OTC medications, which may include antacids, histamine-2 receptor antagonists, or proton pump inhibitors
- continue when taking prescription-strength histamine-2 receptor antagonists or proton pump inhibitors
It is also advisable for someone to see a doctor if they experience:
- new onset of heartburn or regurgitation between the ages of 45 and 55 years
- blood in the vomit or stool
- anemia (iron deficiency)
- voice hoarseness, wheezing, coughing, or choking
- unexplained weight loss
- continuous nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
It is important to be aware that the symptoms of GERD may seem almost identical to the symptoms of a heart condition. Anyone with suspected GERD symptoms who also has any of the following symptoms must seek emergency medical attention:
- chest pain radiating to the shoulder, arm, neck, or jaw
- profuse sweating
- shortness of breath
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also speak with a doctor before taking an OTC heartburn medication.
Children under the age of 12 years should not take OTC antacids or histamine-2 receptors without their parents or caregivers taking them to see a doctor first.
People younger than 18 years should avoid taking OTC proton pump inhibitors without speaking to a doctor.
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