Heartburn Symptoms Checklist

Think you may have nighttime heartburn or GERD? Look for these signs.

Medically Reviewed by Venkat Mohan, MD on September 01, 2006

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

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.

Show Sources

Published Sept. 19, 2005.


Medically updated Dec. 12, 2005.


SOURCES: Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, FACP, co-author of Healing Heartburn (2002); director and founder, Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center; and associate professor of international health and human nutrition; and associate professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Stuart Spechler, MD, spokesman, American Gastroenterological Association; and chief, division of gastroenterology, Dallas VA Medical Center; and professor of medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. David White, Easthampton, Mass. The American Gastroenterological Association web site. The National Heartburn alliance web site. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders web site.

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