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Heartburn Symptoms Checklist

Think you may have nighttime heartburn or GERD? Look for these signs.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Venkat Mohan, MD

One of the problems with chronic heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is that you may not know you have it. Many people aren't completely woken up by GERD symptoms at night. In some cases of GERD, there may be no symptoms at all, even when you're awake. However, there are a number of things you should look for.

  • Waking up to a bitter, acidic taste in your mouth
  • Sharp, burning pain in your chest that can extend up to your neck and throat
  • Fatigue during the day
  • Chronic cough or fits of coughing that wake you up in the night
  • Sore throat, hoarseness, or asthma attacks

In some cases of GERD, the acid can rise so high in the esophagus that a person can actually breathe it in. This can lead to respiratory problems, such as cough or hoarseness.

Recommended Related to Heartburn/GERD

Understanding the Basics of GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be thought of as chronic symptoms of heartburn. The term refers to the frequent backing up (reflux) of stomach contents (food, acid, and/or bile) into the esophagus -- the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. GERD also refers to the array of medical complications, some serious, that can arise from this reflux. Though it causes discomfort, occasional heartburn is not harmful. About 20% of adults in the U.S. experience GERD symptoms such as heartburn...

Read the Understanding the Basics of GERD article > >

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There are other symptoms that experts call "warning signs." Any of them should be checked out right away.

  • Trouble swallowing or painful swallowing
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever

Keep in mind, the symptoms of heartburn are similar in some ways to the symptoms of heart trouble. If you're experiencing pain that feels different from your usual heartburn, get it checked out immediately. Pain after physical activity -- as opposed to after a spicy meal -- is also a worrisome sign. If you have even the slightest doubt about your chest pain, err on the side of caution. Treat it as a medical emergency and go to the nearest emergency room.

Reviewed on September 01, 2006

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