Getting a little heartburn or acid reflux after a meal once in a while probably isn’t anything to worry about. But if you have acid reflux two or more times a week, you could be one of the 20% of Americans with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
This condition develops when the valve (sphincter) that keeps the tube that runs between your mouth and stomach (esophagus) closed stops working. This allows stomach acid to go into your esophagus, where it damages the tissue.
GERD causes many frustrating symptoms and can interfere with your quality of life. Plus, if left untreated, GERD increases your risk of developing other health conditions, including Barrett’s esophagus (a precancerous condition).
Fortunately, different treatments exist to help manage GERD. Board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, and the team at Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, specialize in diagnosing and treating this common condition.
Dr. Rivas always creates personalized GERD treatment plans considering your unique symptoms and healthcare needs. GERD treatment may involve lifestyle changes, medications, or minimally invasive procedures.
Here’s a look at five common signs of GERD. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rivas for an evaluation.
1. Burning chest pain
Heartburn, or a burning feeling near the middle of your chest, is the most common sign of GERD. It can be so bad that people go to the ER thinking they’re having a heart attack.
You can tell it’s heartburn and not a coronary condition because, unlike heart attack pain, which radiates down the arm, pain from GERD usually moves along the line from the stomach to the throat.
2. Dental issues
For many people, the first sign of GERD has nothing to do with the stomach or throat. Instead, dental symptoms may signal this gastrointestinal problem.
When stomach acid flows the wrong way, it can reach your mouth. Once this happens, the stomach acid breaks down the enamel on the surface of your teeth. With weaker enamel, your teeth are at greater risk of developing damage or decay.
3. Bitter taste or bad breath
It’s never pleasant when the contents of your stomach make their way back up into your mouth or throat. While it’s not quite throwing up, this condition, called regurgitation, is uncomfortable and can make you queasy as you taste stomach acid or partially digested food.
Regurgitation from GERD can cause you to have a bad or bitter taste in your mouth and frequently triggers bad breath. Sometimes symptoms can affect your nasal passages, larynx, and voice. This is called silent reflux.
Many people with GERD also have dyspepsia. This term describes a number of symptoms related to general stomach discomfort, including:
- Feeling full or bloated
- Feeling nauseated after eating
- Burping frequently
- Having discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen
If you’re experiencing dyspepsia, be sure to call Dr. Rivas to schedule an exam. The earlier your symptoms are diagnosed, the more effective and quick treatment will be.
5. Throat troubles
When you have GERD, the damage the stomach acid causes to your esophagus can trigger throat symptoms. You may notice that you have trouble swallowing or that your throat feels tight and dry.
Other people describe feeling like there’s a lump or something “stuck” in their throat. These throat troubles can also lead to a persistent, dry cough. It’s important to see your provider for an accurate diagnosis if you’re experiencing throat symptoms.
If you experience any signs of GERD or want to learn more about this common condition, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida.