Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease

Symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease

The three most common symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) are:

  • heartburn
  • regurgitation of acid into your throat and mouth
  • dysphagia  (difficulty swallowing)

These symptoms are discussed in more detail below.

Heartburn

Heartburn is a burning pain or a feeling of discomfort that develops just below your breastbone. The pain is usually worse after eating, or when bending over or lying down.

Regurgitation

Regurgitation of acid usually causes an unpleasant, sour taste at the top of your throat or the back of your mouth.

Dysphagia

Around one in three people with GORD has problems swallowing (dysphagia). It can occur if the stomach acid causes scarring of the oesophagus, which leads to the oesophagus narrowing, making it difficult to swallow food.

People with GORD-associated dysphagia say it feels like a piece of food has become stuck somewhere near their breastbone.

Less common symptoms of GORD

GORD can sometimes have a number of less common symptoms associated with the irritation and damage caused by stomach acid.

Less common symptoms of GORD include:

  • feeling sick
  • persistent cough, often worse at the night
  • chest pain
  • wheezing
  • tooth decay 
  • laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx), which causes throat pain and hoarseness

If you have asthma and GORD, your asthma symptoms may get worse as a result of stomach acid irritating your airways.

When to seek medical advice

If you are only experiencing symptoms such as heartburn once or twice a month, then you probably do not need to seek treatment from your GP.

You should be able to control symptoms by making a number of lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter medication as and when symptoms occur – read more about the treatment of GORD.

You should see your GP if you are having frequent or severe symptoms and finding yourself using over-the-counter medication on a weekly or daily basis. You may require prescription medication to control symptoms and prevent complications.

Last updated: 22 October 2012

Continue to next section: Causes of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease