What are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

GERD is caused when the lower esophageal sphincter doesn’t completely close after swallowing and acidic gastric contents irritate the esophageal tissue. Since esophageal tissue is not capable of handling acidic content, irritation occurs and is felt through a variety of symptoms. Primarily, patients sense a burning sensation in the bottom of their rib cage or chest area. People with acid reflux may also experience a feeling of regurgitation (food coming back into the mouth) after eating and a bitter or acid taste. Other symptoms include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting or bad breath. The symptoms of GERD are usually experienced after eating and are most often triggered by fried foods, fatty foods, tomato products, citrus fruits and juices, chocolate and anything containing caffeine. Typically, lying down or bending over makes the symptoms worse as well.

The best known symptom associated with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is heartburn. Other symptoms associated with GERD include:

  • Acid taste in the mouth when lying flat
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sinus problems
  • Sore throat
  • Change in voice or hoarseness
  • Chronic cough
  • Poor dentition
Dr. Kevin A. Ghassemi, MD

More than 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day. This burning sensation in the chest is a classic sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Other symptoms of GERD are:

  • Lingering sour taste in the mouth
  • Dry cough

Some people vomit food or feel as if food is stuck in their throat or chest.

GERD is also called acid reflux. It is a serious condition. If not properly treated, GERD can cause severe complications such as narrowing or inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis), breathing problems and an increased risk of cancer of the esophagus.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.

Dr. Kelly Traver

The common signs and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may include heartburn, regurgitation, sore throat, halitosis (bad breath), throat clearing, globus (sensation of fullness in the throat), hoarseness, sinusitis, chronic cough, asthma, sleep apnea and, in a small number of cases, even laryngeal cancer and esophageal cancer.

The most common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are heartburn, indigestion, reflux and regurgitation of food. More uncommon symptoms include chronic dry cough, chronic sore throat, worsening of asthma and difficulty swallowing. People with these uncommon symptoms are often not aware that they actually have acid reflux disease. If you are are experiencing daily or weekly GERD symptoms, see your doctor for proper diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and simple heartburn have the same symptoms. Here are the typical and atypical symptoms of heartburn:

Typical symptoms

  • Burning breast plate (sternal) chest pain; increased by bending or lying down, worse at night and relieved by antacids
  • Food sticking after swallowing behind breast plate
  • Acid in back of throat/sour taste on awakening
  • Regurgitation
  • Dyspepsia
  • Burping
  • Nausea
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Fullness
  • Temporary relief obtained with off the shelf antacids

Atypical symptoms

  • Asthma
  • Postnasal drip
  • Persistent cough
  • Lump in throat
  • Raspy or hoarse voice
  • Non-cardiac chest pain
Dr. Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine Specialist

Symptoms of nonulcer dyspepsia (NUD) include symptoms of GERD (heartburn and/or upper abdominal pain), as well as difficulty swallowing, feelings of pressure or heaviness after eating, sensations of bloating after eating, stomach or abdominal pains and cramps, and all of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). About three of ten patients with NUD also meet the criteria for IBS.

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Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Heartburn and GERD cause mild acid burns by allowing stomach contents to flow partway back up the sensitive esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach and throat. This backflow causes a burning pain and can produce scarring if it happens too often. The animation shows why GERD is painful.

Heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, and you’ll usually feel it more than once a week. Here are other symptoms:

  • Regurgitation
  • Acid taste in your mouth
  • Chest discomfort
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Asthma
  • Increase in saliva
  • Gas and bloating
  • Bad breath

Frequent acid reflux is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD, but some people have other symptoms as well, including the following:

  • Nighttime heartburn
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Feeling that food is "stuck" in the esophagus
  • Acid taste in mouth
  • Laryngitis
  • Difficulty breathing (asthma-like symptoms)
  • Belching

Untreated, GERD may lead to serious complications.

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Common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are heartburn and/or acid regurgitation. Heartburn is a burning sensation felt behind the breast bone that occurs when stomach contents irritate the normal lining of the esophagus. Acid regurgitation is the sensation of stomach fluid coming up through the chest which may reach the mouth. Less common symptoms that may also be associated with gastroesophageal reflux include unexplained chest pain, wheezing, sore throat and cough, among others.

The most common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are heartburn, a painful burning sensation behind the breastbone that radiates up toward the neck, as well as regurgitation, which is the sensation of stomach contents coming back up into the throat or the mouth. Less common symptoms of GERD can affect the lungs, such as a cough, asthma, pneumonia, fibrosis of the lungs (or scarring), as well as the nose or throat (sore throat, hoarseness, throat clearing). The heart (chest pain) and the mouth (dental caries, enamel erosion) can be affected as well.

The most common symptom of reflux disease is heartburn. But Sharmila Anandasabapathy, MD, a gastroenterologist at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, explains in this video that other symptoms can accompany the condition.

Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, DO

The blaze of heartburn and the acid-splash of GERD  have much in common. In this video, gastroenterologist Dr. Lisa Ganjhu discusses the causes of these stomach-churning conditions.

Symptoms include heartburn or acid indigestion—a sense of burning in the mid-chest behind the breastbone or mid-abdomen, especially when bending or lying down and regurgitation of food or sour liquid. Less frequently, GERD may cause trouble swallowing, hoarseness, coughing, wheezing, sore throat and asthma.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.