GERD Symptoms and Diagnosis

This condition frequently causes heartburn, an acidic taste in your mouth, and hoarseness.

Your doctor will usually base a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) on whether you have symptoms of the condition and how frequent and severe they are.

You may also undergo a test to see how much acid is in your esophagus.

An endoscopy, which uses a flexible tube containing a tiny camera to examine your throat, may be used to help confirm your diagnosis, or if your doctor suspects that your GERD has caused further complications.

Other tests may be recommended if your doctor isn’t sure your symptoms are caused by GERD, or if certain complications may be present. (1)

GERD Symptoms

GERD may cause a number of different signs and symptoms, not all of which may be present in any particular case.

Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent heartburn, a burning feeling in your chest or throat
  • Regurgitating food or stomach contents
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Feeling like there’s a lump in your throat
  • Damaged teeth from stomach acid
  • Chest pain
  • Bad breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (2,3)

Certain symptoms may also come from respiratory complications of GERD, which happen when you breathe stomach acid into your lungs.

These symptoms can include:

  • Asthma, a chronic disease characterized by sensitivity to lung irritants
  • Chest congestion
  • A dry cough that doesn’t go away
  • Wheezing, or constricted breathing that causes a high-pitched sound
  • Hoarseness or partial loss of your voice
  • Laryngitis, or swelling of your voice box, which can cause temporary loss of your voice
  • Pneumonia, or lung infection (3)

If you have acid reflux at night, you may experience disrupted sleep or be at higher risk for respiratory complications of GERD. (2)

GER vs. GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is a term sometimes used to describe many of the symptoms, such as heartburn, that are seen in GERD.

But GER is much more common and less serious than GERD.

GER happens less often and usually goes away after you take an antacid tablet. GERD describes symptoms that are more persistent.

Some doctors will distinguish between GER and GERD by looking at how often you have symptoms.

If you have heartburn more than twice a week for a few weeks, you may be diagnosed with GERD. (3)

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