GERD often appears as heartburn and regurgitation. Nausea may also appear in particular patients. Other symptoms could emerge as complications occur.
GERD patients are prone to experience stimulation of nerve fibers in the esophagus by acid reflux. This lifelong condition is called heartburn and usually consists of a burning pain through the middle of the chest. It may start high in the abdomen area but could extend as far as the neck. Certain patients will feel angina-like sharp pain or pressure instead of burning while others are prone to suffer with back pain.
Heartburn frequently occurs after meals as well as when patients lay down. Gravity helps to prevent reflux from reaching areas outside of the stomach. For this reason, many GERD patients report being awakened from painful heartburn. There is no measure to how much heartburn will happen during a specific period. Episodes usually occur sporadically meaning patients could see severe heartburn frequently over weeks or months that stops without warning for an undetermined amount of time. This leads GERD patients who do not have esophagitis to seek intermittent treatment.
Most GERD patients will experience regurgitation. It usually consists of small quantities of liquid that reach the esophagus. Some patients will be prone to larger amounts of liquid that could contain food. This situation will see the reflux liquid reach the upper esophagus.
The upper esophageal sphincter (UES) sits at the upper end of the esophagus. It is a circular ring of muscle, which prevents esophageal muscle from backing up into the throat. As small amounts of reflux liquid or foods move through the UES, an acidic taste appears in the mouth. Prolonged regurgitation could lead to acid-induced erosion of teeth.
Nausea does not appear as much with GERD though specific patients could experience it frequently. Doctors often look toward GERD when unexplained nausea appears. There is no clear reason as to why this symptom appears in some patients and not in others.