Gerd Symptoms

Heartburn is the most common of the GERD symptoms. It’s caused by gastric contents escaping into the esophagus. For many GERD patients, heartburn and acid reflux are the only noticeable GERD symptoms.

Most people with GERD report mild symptoms and some people experience no symptoms at all, even though the disease is present. After heartburn, acid regurgitation is the most common GERD symptom. Acid regurgitation occurs when acid reflux forces stomach contents up the esophagus and into the mouth, causing a vile taste and burning sensation at the back of the throat.

Less Common GERD Symptoms

While heartburn and acid regurgitation are the most common symptoms of GERD, a number of other symptoms can develop, including:

  • bad breath
  • belching
  • erosion of dental enamel
  • excessive saliva
  • gum inflammation
  • hoarseness
  • laryngitis
  • pain when swallowing
  • sore throat
  • sour “bile” taste in the mouth
  • swallowing difficulties
  • throat inflammation.

Heartburn and Chest Pain

Heartburn, the most common of the GERD symptoms, can cause chest pain. Heartburn chest pain varies in intensity, and can be very severe. Even if you have a diagnosis of GERD, don’t dismiss chest pain as just heartburn: The possibility of a heart condition should not be ruled out.

GERD Diagnosis

A GERD diagnosis begins with a physical examination and gathering a history of heartburn and other GERD symptoms. Once this is completed, the diagnosis relies on a number of tests to confirm the presence of acid reflux.

A barium swallow is used to take x-rays of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Just prior to the x-ray the patient drinks barium, a chalky-gray metallic liquid. The barium coats the esophagus and stomach lining, making the organs easier to visualize on an x-ray.

During GERD diagnosis, the physician has to determine whether heartburn symptoms are actually caused by acid reflux or another condition. A Bernstein test uses a tube to drop a fine acid into the esophagus. If the results of the Bernstein test match reported GERD symptoms, then a GERD diagnosis is likely.

Esophageal mamometry, which measures the strength of the esophageal muscles, is also used during GERD diagnosis to determine the possible causes of GERD symptoms. A small tube is inserted down the throat to the lower esophageal sphincter to measure the strength of the esophageal muscles at rest.

An esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or EGD, uses an endoscope for GERD diagnosis. An endoscope is a thin tube that is guided down the throat and transmits a picture to a monitor. If the esophagus lining shows evidence of chronic heartburn and tissue damage, the endoscope can also be used to gather tissue samples for biopsy.

pH monitoring, one of the most involved tests used for GERD diagnosis, is used to measure esophageal acidity. A tube with a sensor at one end is inserted through a nostril and down the throat into the esophagus. The other end of the tube is attached to a small computer that records acidity levels. The computer is small enough to strap onto a belt.

pH monitoring lasts from twelve hours to a full day. During this period, normal eating habits and activities should be maintained and a diary kept to record heartburn and other possible GERD symptoms. After the test, the acidity results are compared with the events in the heartburn diary.

Resources

Beers, M.H.