A majority of people will suffer from acid reflux at some point in their lives. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux or GERD, this condition is also commonly referred to as heartburn. It occurs when excess stomach acids splash up and into the esophagus.

People of all ages may deal with acid reflux episodes and the symptoms may vary from person to person. In the worst cases, severe heartburn can contribute to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which may lead to throat cancer. So, it’s significant to know that acid reflux has the potential to be quite a serious problem.

To help you spot acid reflux and know when to treat it, let’s now look at its 14 different symptoms. Some of these symptoms are common, while others are relatively rare, but if you notice a few of them, you may be suffering from acid reflux.

1. Reasons Chest Pain May Be A Major Sign Of Your Acid Reflux.

Chest PainChest pain is probably the most common and widely-known symptom of acid reflux. The acid rising directly up the esophagus causes pain in the chest. It then burns this area, resulting in a painful sensation for the sufferer. The pain can differ in intensity and duration.

Sometimes, the pain is so intense that people believe they are having a heart attack. It’s essential to never ignore chest pain as it is one of the major signs of heart failure, too. The pain of acid reflux will usually worsen if you cough or breathe deeply. The acid reflux pain is usually sharper than it would be in the case of a heart attack.

2. Understand Why Your Heartburn Pain Can Become Worse When You Lie Down.

Heartburn usually becomes more painful when you lie down. This is because the acid can flow more easily up your esophagus because of the gravity. Therefore, napping or lying down after a meal can be a recipe for disaster for GERD sufferers.

You should try to sit straight up for at least an hour if you struggle with repetitive heartburn as this will help to keep the acid in your stomach intact. Besides, experts suggest that any heartburn sufferers should avoid eating before bed or sleep with their head held up.

3. Why Reflux Can Make Your Mealtimes Difficult.

Acid reflux commonly occurs shortly after mealtimes because the stomach produces more acid to digest the food you consume. This excess acid is likely to rise up the esophagus and cause pain and discomfort.

Experts therefore advise eating smaller portions throughout the day. Also, you should avoid certain foods, especially fatty products or alcoholic drinks.

4. Acid Reflux Can Leave A Bitter Taste In Your Mouth.

In the worst cases of acid reflux, the stomach acid flows far up the esophagus and is even able to reach the back of your throat. This causes the development of a bitter, unpleasant taste in the patient’s mouth.

In addition, the acid can flow right up to the mouth and cause choking and pain. Doctors will be able to prescribe medications like PPIs and antacids to cope with this problem.

5. Throat Problems Are A Common Symptom, Too.

sore throat
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Hoarseness is usually associated with cold or flu, but it can also be a common symptom of acid reflux. This occurs when your stomach acids reach and irritate the vocal cords in your throat.

If your voice begins to become raspy or dry, it could be a sign of acid reflux damage.

Having a sore throat is also something most people might commonly associate with cold and flu, but this is frequently part of the life of an acid reflux patient.

To differentiate between a sore throat caused by acid reflux and one caused by a cold, you simply have to look at the type of pain involved. Acid reflux pain is usually more constant and sharp.

6. Coughing And Respiratory Difficulties May Also Arise.

It’s also not unusual to see acid reflux patients coughing or having trouble to breathe. The stomach acid is able to reach the lungs in some cases and interfere with respiration in the process.

If you are struggling with breathing problems due to heartburn, visit a doctor for a full diagnosis. Doctors will be able to perform pH tests to check whether or not acid is rising up your throat and making you cough.

7. Asthma Could Also Be A Big Consequence Of Your Repetitive Heartburn.

AsthmaIn long-term cases of acid reflux, asthma is a potential possibility. Usually, stomach acid that rises up in the esophagus due to acid reflux damages the lungs over an extended period of time.

Studies are still ongoing to determine the likelihood of a patient developing asthma due to acid reflux, but it remains a distinct likelihood. Some scientists believe that the stomach acid is able to block your respiratory tubes. It’s imperative to speak to a medical professional if you have any trouble with asthma attacks.

8. Nausea And Your Acid Reflux May Share A Common Link.

Nausea is a usual symptom of a wide variety of problems, so few people tend to link it with acid reflux. However, if you seem to have nausea for no clear reason, acid reflux could be the culprit. This is even more likely if your nausea tends to appear after mealtimes or at night.

9. Extra Saliva May Build Up In Your Mouth.

Another typical occurrence in acid reflux sufferers is the buildup of excess saliva. If you begin to notice generation of lots of saliva in your mouth, this may be a sign of acid reflux.

Excessive saliva formation usually occurs because the body is trying to get rid of the acid in the esophagus.

10. Acid Reflux Could Make It Hard For You To Swallow.

Multiple Sclerosis
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Chronic patients of acid reflux may suffer from a big damage to the esophagus because of the upward splashing of stomach acid. Acid can cause scars and swelling, resulting in a narrowing of the esophagus and thereby make it harder for an individual to swallow.

This condition is known as dysphagia and can also be caused by the following problems:

  • Strokes
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Cancer

11. Bad Breath Could Be Another Unwanted Side Effect Of Your Heartburn.

At the base of your esophagus is a valve known as the esophageal sphincter. If this valve is weak, acid reflux is more likely to occur because the valve opens up more easily. This also allows gases to flow from the stomach up to the mouth, causing bad breath.

An effective way to deal with this problem is to monitor the foods you eat.

Eliminate the obvious offenders. Avoid or cut back on some of the following foods:

  • Alcoholic Drinks
  • Coffee or Other Caffeinated Drinks
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus Fruits
  • FiberMint
  • Spicy Dishes
  • Chocolate
  • Fatty Products

Consume more fiber. Replace unhealthy foods with fiber-rich ingredients to prevent bad breath. Fiber helps your digestive system to flow more efficiently and can therefore reduce your risk of acid reflux.

Stay hydrated. You are also encouraged to keep yourself hydrated. Drink eight glasses of water per day for best results. Water helps your body to function properly and can also clear your esophagus of bacteria that might contribute to bad breath.

12. You May Find You Struggle With Chronic Sinusitis.

If your acid reflux is particularly bad, the acid can rise up your esophagus and enter your sinuses. This acid can worsen your sinusitis, leading to various additional symptoms such as headache and pressure in the facial region.

Many patients go to their doctor reporting the symptoms of both conditions. Thus, scientists are constantly researching and discovering new links between acid reflux and sinusitis on a regular basis.

It’s especially usual to find symptoms of both sinus and acid reflux in children. This occurs because younger children have shorter passages connecting their stomachs and their sinuses. Therefore, the acid has less distance to travel and is more likely to interfere with the ear, nose and throat.

Fortunately, acid reflux isn’t a major problem for children and young sufferers usually outgrow the condition over time.

13. Stomach Acid May Cause Dental Erosion.

Dental Erosion
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Acid reflux can also cause problems to your teeth. In fact, dental erosion is one of the most classic and easily noticeable signs of acid reflux. Dentists are generally the first people to diagnose the condition.

Stomach acid is extremely detrimental when it comes into contact with skin or teeth. Therefore, when the acid that rises up to the back of the mouth comes in contact with your teeth, it causes damage to teeth enamel. Over time, it can wear away the enamel of your teeth and cause them to degrade.

Gastroenterologists are required to diagnose and treat dental erosion. There are also various things patients can do to look after their teeth. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t brush your teeth after a reflux episode. It might seem like a smart thing to do, but you may end up brushing the acid onto your teeth. This will worsen your dental erosion.
  • Chew some gum. Sugar-free is the best option. This causes the generation of saliva, which will neutralize any acid that arrives in your mouth.
  • Talk to your dentist. They will be able to tell you about toothpastes and other dental products containing fluoride. This will help to strengthen your teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth. A simple rinse with water after reflux attacks is all you need to wash away any acid.
  • Use a homemade treatment. Try mixing some water with baking soda and rinse your mouth with this mixture. This will neutralize the acid and provide a favorable environment to your teeth.

14. Know Why You Feel Like You’ve Got A Lump In Your Throat.

Adams apple
Photo by Ian T. McFarland / CC BY-SA

One constant problem that many acid reflux sufferers usually deal with is the sensation of always having a lump in the throat. This lump can seem to be about the size of a golf ball or a vitamin pill. It is located in the middle of the neck right above the sternum and below the Adams apple. The sensation is usually quite frustrating and uncomfortable, but not painful.

Acid reflux and stress are the most common cause of this condition. It may be harder for sufferers to swallow thick liquids or certain types of food. Usually, an individual may feel compelled to swallow a second or the third time to make sure food get down. Fortunately, this irritating condition may fade over time as you follow the right treatment plan.

How Doctors Diagnose Acid Reflux

If you suffer from some of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s necessary to visit a doctor as soon as possible and get yourself diagnosed. To begin the diagnosis, a doctor will ask some simple questions to learn more about you and your condition.

Here are some tips to help this process be as effective as possible.

  • Be thorough when talking about your medical history. The more your doctor knows about you, the better they will be able to treat your problem. Successful treatment plans can hinge on individual pieces of information, so you should share everything you know about your symptoms with your doctor, like:
  • DoctorMention any digestive problems you’ve been having. Report any hoarseness or laryngitis, coughing, stomach pain, persistent sore throats and any history of stomach ulcers or other GI disorders you have had throughout your life. Knowing about symptoms like coughs and stomach ulcers can help the doctor enormously.
  • Report any allergies you may be suffering from. Certain mediations or tests may involve the use of various chemicals, so your doctor must be aware of your allergies in advance.
  • Don’t just tell your health care professionals this information. Be sure to mention any pre-existing medical conditions you have suffered in the past. Other doctors that may be part of your healthcare team such as radiologists or anesthesiologists should also know your medical history and other related information for better diagnosis.
  • Talk about any medications you may be taking. Don’t forget to mention the whole list of pills or medications you have been taking recently. This even includes medicines like vitamin tablets or herbal supplements.

Diagnostic Tests for Acid Reflux

In severe cases, you may need to undergo some tests to check whether or not you have acid reflux. Here are some examples of tests:

  • Endoscopy: Your doctor will insert a tube with a camera on the end into your throat. They use it to look at the esophagus for any signs of acid reflux damage.
  • pH Monitoring: For this test, a small device is left inside your esophagus. It measures the frequency and severity of acid reflux attacks. The device remains there for a couple of days before passing through your digestive system.

After your doctor has completed your full diagnosis, they will begin your acid reflux treatment.

Know Your Acid Reflux Treatment Options

There are many different types of treatment available for acid reflux. The type of treatment used will depend on the symptoms present. If one treatment doesn’t work for you, another one may be the key, so don’t give up.

How to Handle Your Mild Symptoms

In the mildest cases, the treatment is relatively passive. Doctors will recommend that you change some aspects of your diet or lifestyle. They may also mention the use of simple antacid tablets.

Lifestyle Changes

Since acid reflux can be caused by the way you live your life and the food you eat, there are many significant changes you can make to help ease the problem. Here are some examples of lifestyle changes:

  • Lose some weightLose some weight. Changing your diet and doing some regular exercise can help you lose weight. This works to ease your acid reflux symptoms. In addition, weight loss can help you look and feel better about yourself, while also lowering your chances of various digestive and cardiovascular problems.
  • Raise the head of the bed. Many heartburn sufferers wake up in the middle of the night with pain. This occurs because of your sleeping posture. If you lie down, it becomes easier for the stomach acid to flow up the esophagus.
  • This is why some doctors recommend raising the head of the bed to about six to eight inches in order to keep your head above your shoulders while you sleep. You can use blocks of wood under the legs of the bed or a foam wedge under the mattress.
  • Avoid acid reflux-inducing foods. Try to cut down on chocolate, alcohol, mint, caffeinated beverages and other top acid trigger foods.
  • Quit smoking. When you smoke cigarettes, you produce less saliva. Saliva works to neutralize stomach acid and prevent heartburn. It’s therefore wise to cut down on smoking in order to ease your symptoms. Smoking can also cause coughing and other esophagus related issues.
  • Avoid large and late meals. Try not to eat before going to bed, as this will worsen your heartburn. You should also avoid large portions since the stomach will produce excess acid to cope with the food.
  • Avoid tight -fitting clothing. Tight clothes can put extra pressure on your stomach, making acid reflux more likely to occur. Wear loose-fitting clothes while you eat.
  • Chew gum or use oral lozenges. Chewing gum or sucking lozenges helps to generate extra saliva, which can neutralize excess acid.

Antacids

Antacids work to help people dealing with heartburn. It’s worth noting that these little tablets only provide short-term relief, so it is worth making changes to your lifestyle, as well.

Histamine Antagonists

acid your stomach produces
Photo by Adam L. VanWert, Pharm.D., Ph.D. / CC BY

Histamine antagonists help to lower the amount of acid your stomach produces. This makes it less likely for acid reflux to happen. Some examples of histamine antagonists are Pepcid, Zantac and Axid.

Studies have shown that even small changes can have a big impact on the lives of patients. The effectiveness of these changes may depend on every individual, but it’s significant to give them a try if you want to feel better.

If, however, these changes have no positive effect on your ongoing acid reflux problem or your symptoms become more severe, speak to a doctor as soon as possible.

Dealing With Your Moderate to Severe Symptoms

If you have more severe symptoms or simply haven’t noticed any benefits from changing your lifestyle or using antacids, more powerful treatment methods may be used.

The most common form of treatment is the use of proton pump inhibitors.

  • Proton Pump InhibitorsProton Pump Inhibitors, PPIsSome examples of PPIs are Prilosec, Prevacid and Kapidex. They work in a similar way to histamine antagonists, but are more potent. You may need to try different PPIs in different doses before finding the ideal prescription for your body.You will usually need to take this medication for a couple of months. After a three-month period, you need to consult with the doctor for another checkup. Your doctor may alter your treatment depending on the symptoms.PPIs are completely safe to use, but can come with some long-term side effects. These include intestinal conditions and lower absorption rates of certain nutrients. These side effects are extremely rare, but do still exist. It is therefore vital for doctors to try and reach a state at which the patient only needs to take a small amount of PPIs.

When PPIs Are Unable to Ease the Symptoms

In the worst cases of acid reflux, where PPIs prove to be ineffective, additional treatment methods may be required, such as:

  • Using a different PPI.
  • Increasing the dosage of the PPI.
  • More tests to better understand the problem.
  • Surgical options.

Surgical Treatment

SurgerySurgery is a last resort option for severe acid reflux cases. Before the development of PPIs, doctors usually conducted surgery to treat acid reflux patients. However, they now don’t use it often since the operations can be quite complicated. Surgery usually involves repairing the diaphragm if a hiatus hernia is present and strengthening the valve at the base of the esophagus.

Surgery usually goes well and can fully cure the problem. However, some side effects and potential problems can arise with surgery. Some examples include:

  • Trouble Swallowing
  • Stomach Bloating
  • Diarrhea

When You Should Call the Doctor With Acid Reflux Symptoms

If simple medications like antacids don’t cure your heartburn, it’s time to call the doctor. You should also seek medical help if you notice any of the following severe symptoms:

  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Vomiting Blood
  • Black or Dark Stools
  • Difficulty Swallowing

Here are some other troubling symptoms that should encourage you to visit a doctor’s clinic.

Coughing
Photo by GabboT / CC BY-SA
  • Wheezing or Coughing
  • A Sore Throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Constant Hiccups
  • Regular Nausea

It can even be possible for people to think they are suffering with heartburn when they are having a heart attack. This is because some of the symptoms of both issues are similar. If you have any of the following symptoms, you need to call the emergency services:

  • Chest Pain or A Feeling of Heaviness On the Chest
  • Pain Around the Neck, Shoulder or Jaw
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Dizziness or Nausea
  • Sweating

A huge percentage of the population suffers from acid reflux. Too many people believe that this is a minor issue and doesn’t require any special attention. However, acid reflux can be quite serious. The symptoms are difficult to live with and can really bring down your quality of life.

Luckily, there are ways to deal with this problem. Now that you know the symptoms, you can seek out treatment in the form of lifestyle changes, mediations and supplements.