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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.

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One in 10 Americans has heartburn or acid reflux at least once a week, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. Whether you're one of the lucky few who generally has an iron stomach -- or you need heartburn relief nearly every day -- rest assured: You can soothe the burn. Start by getting to know your local pharmacist. Uniquely trained in drug interactions and side effects, pharmacists can help you look at the medications you're already taking, uncover any potential side effects...

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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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