Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - When To Call a Doctor
The main symptom of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is an
uncomfortable feeling of burning, warmth, heat, or pain just behind the
breastbone, a feeling commonly referred to as heartburn. Sometimes heartburn
can feel like the chest pain of a heart attack.
Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if:
For most people, heartburn is a treatable symptom. Frequent heartburn may indicate acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. When treatment doesn't work and heartburn is severe despite lifestyle changes, surgery may be an option. It may also be an option if GERD causes other medical problems. Minimally invasive procedures using endoscopy are also available to treat acid reflux.
You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
Nausea or vomiting.
Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
A fast or irregular heartbeat.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Call your doctor immediately if
Have bloody, black, or
Call your doctor if your GERD symptoms:
Do not improve after 2 weeks of home
treatment, are different or are getting worse, or are interfering with normal
Occur with choking or difficulty
Occur with significant weight loss when you are not trying to lose weight.
Have occurred frequently over several years and are only partially
relieved with lifestyle changes and nonprescription medicines that reduce or
Occasional mild heartburn can often be relieved
by making lifestyle changes and taking nonprescription medicines that reduce or
block acid. Contact a doctor if
you have any of the symptoms listed above.
If you haven't been diagnosed
with GERD but you are concerned about symptoms such as heartburn or a sour taste in your
mouth, see the topic
Who To See
The following health professionals can evaluate
symptoms of GERD:
You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in
diseases of the digestive tract (gastroenterologist) to check severe
GERD symptoms or to get an opinion on whether surgery is needed. If you are
thinking about having surgery, you may also be referred to a general surgeon
who has experience treating stomach and esophagus problems.