GERD Home > GERD Symptoms

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) occurs when stomach acid goes back into the esophagus long enough to damage it. Of all GERD symptoms, the most common is heartburn. The pain or discomfort caused by heartburn usually starts in the middle of the chest, and can move up through the throat. Other signs and symptoms include chest pain, sore throat, and painful swallowing.

Signs and Symptoms of GERD: An Overview

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short, is a condition where stomach acid refluxes back into the esophagus, causing damage to it. There are several possible GERD symptoms a person can experience, with heartburn being the most common.

Comparing GERD Symptoms to Heartburn

A frequent question that people have is, "How is GERD different from heartburn?" Heartburn is a symptom. Similar to GERD, heartburn occurs when stomach acid refluxes back into the esophagus. When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat known as heartburn. Heartburn can occur as a result of number of conditions (diabetes, scleroderma, Raynaud's phenomenon), medications, or lifestyle choices (see Causes of Heartburn).
On the other hand, GERD is a condition. Symptoms of GERD also occur when stomach acid refluxes, but with GERD, the acid has refluxed for long enough to cause damage to the esophagus. This causes symptoms that are usually more severe than heartburn, occurring more frequently and for longer periods of time.
Occasional heartburn is common, but does not necessarily mean a person has GERD. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week or that affects a person's life may be considered GERD.

Common GERD Symptoms

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. The pain or discomfort caused by heartburn usually starts in the middle of the chest and can move up through the throat. With GERD, heartburn can be frequent, constant, and/or severe.
Other common GERD symptoms include:
  • Sensation of food stuck in the throat
  • Feeling like you are choking or like your throat is tight
  • Acidic or sour taste in the mouth (acid indigestion)
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Chest pain.
It is also possible for a person with the condition to have one or several of these other symptoms but not have heartburn.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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