When to Contact a Doctor

Acid reflux, or heartburn, is caused when acid from the stomach refluxes into the esophagus. Each week, 15 percent of Americans experience acid reflux. Most people manage their symptoms with over-the-counter medications like antacids. However, recurring and persistent acid reflux is a sign of a more serious complication called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Some signs and symptoms of GERD include:

  • pain in the chest area
  • coughing
  • trouble swallowing
  • a bitter taste in the mouth
  • vomiting
  • hoarseness
  • sore throat
  • sleep apnea

Not everyone with GERD experiences all of these symptoms. Some symptoms of GERD are very serious and require emergency care, either by your doctor or a visit to the emergency department.

You should call your doctor if:

  • you have pain in your chest and have a numbing pain in your jaw or arm. These are signs of a heart problem and indicate that you should get help immediately
  • the type, location, or severity of your chest pain changes
  • you have severe abdominal pain
  • you have signs of shock, such as weakness, dizziness, confusion, and fainting (unconsciousness)
  • your skin is cool, wet, and pale, or you begin to sweat
  • you have trouble breathing or are short of breath—this can be a sign of a respiratory problem
  • you have the sensation of choking
  • you’re vomiting fluid that is dark brown, yellow, green, or looks like coffee grounds or blood
  • you have diarrhea that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
  • your medicine isn’t helping to relieve your symptoms
  • you experience sudden or dramatic weight loss

More patients visit the emergency department because of GERD than any other digestive disorder. If you have GERD and are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t wait. Contact your doctor immediately.