Acid reflux symptoms are caused when stomach contents, including food, stomach acid, and digestive juices flow up from the stomach to the esophagus. Symptoms range from mild to severe and differ from one person to the next. They tend to crop up when you're lifting, lying down, bending over, or after a heavy, fatty, or acidic meal.
Acid reflux can occur at any time of day. However, most people with GERD tend to experience symptoms at night, while lying down. You should see your doctor for testing and an evaluation if you find yourself taking antacids on a daily basis or experience acid reflux more than twice a week.
Common Acid Reflux Symptoms
Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of acid reflux. The painful, burning sensation is caused by stomach acid that rises from your stomach to the lower part of the middle of your chest, behind the breastbone and the mid-abdomen, and into the throat.
Although it can range from uncomfortable to painful, the severity of the burning sensation doesn't necessarily indicate actual injury to the esophagus. Heartburn often worsens when you lie down or bend over.
The backwash of stomach acid can cause a sour or bitter taste in your mouth. There may also be an accompanying burning sensation in your throat and mouth.
Some people experience regurgitation, which is the feeling of acid, a sour liquid, food, or bile backing up into your throat. Although it's not common, in some cases, people may vomit. Infants and children with GER or GERD may experience repeated regurgitation. This can be harmless and perfectly natural in infants under 18 months old.
Find out other causes of regurgitation.
Dyspepsia, or indigestion, is a burning feeling and discomfort in the upper middle part of your stomach. Pain can be intermittent but usually is present. Some people may feel bloated, have heartburn, an uncomfortable fullness, nausea, an upset stomach, and vomit or burp a lot. These symptoms should be taken seriously, as they can signify deep ulcers, which—though rarely—can be caused by stomach cancer.
Learn about other causes of indigestion.
Difficulty Swallowing (Dysphagia)
Seven to 10 percent of adults over age 50 have dysphagia. This is a condition in which swallowing is difficult or painful. There are many potential causes of dysphagia, ranging from weak facial muscles to Parkinson's disease and cancer, to GERD.
Find out other potential causes of difficulty swallowing.
Having a sore throat, hoarse voice, or the sensation of a lump in your throat are all common symptoms of acid reflux. Acid reflux is present in as many as 50 percent of all patients with voice problems.
Learn other possible causes of a sore throat.
Other Acid Reflux Symptoms
Some adults and most children under age 12 with GERD don't experience the most common symptom of acid reflux: heartburn. Instead, they may have a dry cough. Adults may also experience the sensation of having a lump in the throat or feeling like they need to repeatedly cough or clear their throat.
Find out about other causes of dry cough.
Asthma symptoms such as wheezing, which are caused by stomach acid irritating the airways, are more common in children under 12 years old. However, they can be experienced by some adults with GERD.
Emergency Acid Reflux Symptoms
Each year, GERD accounts for up to 60 percent of patient visits to the emergency room for chest pain that's not heart-related. However, the burning sensation and chest pain some acid reflux sufferers experience can signal a more serious condition: heart attack.
Seek emergency medical treatment immediately if you experience heartburn that seems different or worse than normal, or have severe chest pain such as a squeezing, tightening, or crushing sensation in your chest. This is especially important if it occurs during physical activity or is accompanied by:
- shortness of breath
- pain radiating through your left arm, shoulder, back, neck, or jaw
Prompt treatment may save your life. Call 9-1-1 if your stools are maroon or tar-black, or if you vomit material that is black (like coffee grounds) or bloody.