Heart Attack Symptoms Gerd Esophageal Spasm

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and esophageal spasm are problems of the gastrointestinal system. Often, the symptoms of these problems can be very similar to the symptoms of a heart attack. Unlike heart attack, however, GERD and esophageal spasm aren’t life threatening.

GERD Symptoms

GERD is a common problem for nearly 5 percent of the adult population. The exact cause of GERD is unknown, but the condition results when stomach acid seeps into the esophagus. Sometimes GERD results when people have a faulty esophageal sphincter valve, which allows the stomach acid to travel up into the esophagus.

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • bad breath
  • belching
  • chest pain
  • chronic sore throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • erosion of tooth enamel
  • excess of saliva
  • gum inflammation
  • heartburn
  • hoarseness
  • sour taste in the mouth.

GERD is diagnosed by a doctor. The treatment for GERD usually includes prescription medication, such as Nexium® or Prilosec®, and lifestyle changes. Treatment of GERD is important. If left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious complications, such as esophageal cancer.

Symptoms of Esophageal Spasm

An esophageal spasm is an irregular and sometimes very powerful contraction of the esophagus. The contractions of the esophagus are usually coordinated to move food from the esophagus into the stomach. When esophageal spasms occur, however, food often becomes stuck in the esophagus instead of going into the stomach.

Esophageal spasms are actually quite uncommon. Most people who think they have esophageal spasms actually have GERD or anxiety issues. However, if they do have esophageal spasms, the symptoms include:

  • chest pain
  • difficulty swallowing foods or liquids
  • feeling that food is caught in the center of the chest
  • heartburn or a burning sensation in chest.

Esophageal spasms are diagnosed by a doctor, who will discuss your symptoms, lifestyle, diet, etc. Your doctor might request you undergo testing, which might include an endoscopy or X-rays.

Treatment for esophageal spasm will likely include prescription medication and lifestyle changes.

GERD and Esophageal Spasm: Special Concerns

Both GERD and esophageal spasm have symptoms that can mimic a heart attack. It is often difficult to decide if you are having gastrointestinal symptoms or heart attack, especially if the chest pain is intense. Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • chest pain that comes with sweating, dizziness, shortness of breath or nausea
  • chest pain that might be accompanied by an irregular heartbeat
  • pain that spreads to the neck, back, jaw, shoulders and especially the left arm
  • sudden tightness, pressure, squeezing or crushing pain that is in the center of the chest
  • tightening of the chest or chest pressure while doing physical activity or when you are feeling stressed

If you are experiencing chest pain with an unknown origin, you should always have it checked out by a doctor. Also, if you have GERD or esophageal spasms and are experiencing any symptoms that seem worse than normal or that are different than normal, you should seek emergency medical treatment.


Hess, Christopher. (2006). Esophageal Spasm. Retrieved November 18, 2007, from the peacehealth.org Web site: http://www.peacehealth.org/kbase/topic/special/ut1638spec/sec1.htm.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (n.d.). Heartburn and Chest Pain. Retrieved November 18, 2007, from the CNN.com Web site: http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/DG/00016.html.