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If you are prone to acid reflux or have Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you may be aware of all the symptoms you can experience. GERD is a disease that is caused by frequent or chronic acid reflux with the most common symptom being heartburn. However, there are many other symptoms associated with acid reflux/GERD, and these symptoms differ between sufferers.
That being said, like other health conditions, sometimes when a person experiences what they believe to be signs of acid reflux or GERD, they may in fact be experiencing these symptoms due to a separate health condition that may be completely independent of GERD. Acid reflux may be a secondary condition, but not the primary problem.
So, since there may be more than one possible reason why your symptoms are occurring, the following is a list of common acid reflux and GERD symptoms, as well as a brief mention of conditions/diseases the could also produce these same signs:
Heartburn – burning sensation that rises up from the stomach to the chest and throat. Symptom often occurs after ingesting a heavy meal, lifting, bending over, and lying down. Heartburn is almost always a result of GERD due to the lower esophageal sphincter (LES ) relaxing/weakening and allowing stomach acids and contents to reenter the esophagus.
Other possible causes of Heartburn:
- Hiatal Hernia or diaphragmatic hernia (when a portion of the stomach protrudes into the lower chest)
- Gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying) – condition common in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Dyspepsia – pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen, feeling nauseated after eating, or a sense of fullness in the stomach. When occurring with GERD this symptom is typically felt after overeating or when a person eats foods they are sensitive to.
Other possible causes of Dyspepsia:
- Peptic ulcers (open sore on the inside lining of the stomach, esophagus or upper small intestine)
- Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
- Gallbladder disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Stomach flu
- Stomach cancer – in rare cases
Regurgitation – sensation of acid or food contents being refluxed up into the throat and mouth, causing a sour or bitter flavor.
Other causes of regurgitation:
- Esophageal motility disorder (I.E. dysphagia - difficulty swallowing, or Achalasia - LES does not relax to allow food to enter stomach, etc.)
- Pyloric Stenosis (narrow opening between the intestines and the stomach)
- Chaga’s disease (human tropical parasitic disease)
- Diabetes mellitus
- Scleroderma (chronic disorder that can causes the skin, connective tissues, and the internal organs to thicken and harden)
Chest pain – feeling as if food is trapped behind the breastbone. Chest pain can cause chest pressure, mild chest discomfort, or severe squeezing pain that extends across the mid chest.
Other causes of Chest pain:
- Heart attack
- Angina (reduced flow of blood to the heart muscle)
- Benign chest wall pain (likely an irritation of the pleura – the covering that protects the lungs)
- Peptic ulcer
- Esophageal motility disorder (I.E. functional chest pain which causes spastic contractions of the esophagus)
- Pericarditis (inflammation of the membranous sac that shelters and protects the heart)
- Panic or Anxiety disorder
- Pleuritis (inflammation of lung lining)
Chronic Laryngitis – characterized by dry cough, hoarseness, feeling that something is constantly in the throat, and needing to repeatedly clear the throat. Aside from these signs, when caused by acid reflux, laryngitis can eventually lead to chronic cough and sore throat.
Other causes of laryngitis:
- Viral infections
- Laryngeal cancer (very rare and associated with heavy alcohol consumption and smoking)
Chronic sore throat – caused by constant acid being refluxed into the throat.
Other causes of chronic sore throat:
- Outdoor/Indoor air pollution – especially tobacco smoke, inhaling secondhand smoke, and regular air pollution.
- Dryness – could be the cause of breathing with your mouth open or dry indoor air especially in the winter.
- Tumors of the tongue, throat or voice box (rare and associated with heavy smoking and alcohol consumption)
Dysphagia - this is an esophageal motility disorder that is characterized by difficulty swallowing and can occur with GERD or may cause GERD. It can cause choking, or food may lodge into the esophagus, become trapped, and cause severe chest pain.
Other causes of Dysphagia:
- Injury of the head, neck or chest
- Infection or irritation of the esophagus
- Weakening of the esophageal muscles or malfunctioning of the muscles in the mouth, throat or esophagus
- Cancer of the head, neck, esophagus, tongue, or throat
As you can see, there are many other mild and serious health conditions/disease that could cause many of the symptoms that are commonly associated with acid reflux and GERD. Therefore, if you are still experiencing acid reflux/GERD symptoms after you have made necessary dietary and lifestyle changes, and acid reflux medications (I.E. antacids and H2 receptors) are not providing you relief, it may be time to visit your doctor to find out if…
Acid reflux or GERD is the primary condition you are suffering from
Acid reflux or GERD is a secondary condition to a larger health issue
Your health issues have nothing to do with acid reflux or GERD
Don’t be afraid to find out what may be effecting your body. Give yourself peace of mind and find out the truth, so you can take the effective steps to treat, cure, and prevent your primary health problems.
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