My Experience of GERD Symptoms
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
I suffer from GERD—gastroesophageal reflux disease. This condition is also referred to as acid reflux. I’ve had it for years and have often suffered from some terrible GERD symptoms. In fact, I spent last night in the emergency room because of some scary and very painful acid reflux symptoms. I had stopped taking my Aciphex, which had been controlling my symptoms very well. I had recently received a letter from my insurance company indicating that they would no longer be covering this medication, and I was advised to take over-the-counter Prilosec (omeprazole) instead. However, I soon discovered that this new medication did not stop my GERD symptoms.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of GERD, see your physician immediately. Left untreated, GERD can lead to very serious conditions.
My Acid Reflux Symptoms
As soon as I stopped taking Aciphex, I got a sore throat and an earache. I thought it was probably a viral infection or a sinus infection. The sore throat lasted for several days, and as with most sore throats, it was painful to swallow. After the sore throat was gone, swallowing was still painful. In fact, every time I swallowed, I experienced pain in my esophagus and pressure in my chest. I was also burping often and felt bloated. I knew these were symptoms of GERD, so I doubled up on my over-the-counter omeprazole.
Did this work? No, my acid reflux symptoms got worse. I began to have sharp pains in my stomach. Another GERD symptom I experienced was pain in the center of my back, under my shoulder blades. At the time, I didn’t associate the symptoms with acid reflux. The pain got so bad that I began to think that I had a perforated ulcer, pancreatitis, or a ruptured spleen. I also had chills, a low grade fever, and a distended abdomen. I felt as if my belly were a balloon ready to burst. Another scary acid reflux symptom was that it was difficult for me to breathe. I was also nauseous and had little appetite.
I’m not one to run to the doctor quickly, but last night, the symptoms of GERD were so bad that they woke me from sleep. I arrived at the local emergency room, sure that there was something terrible wrong with me. I have a high threshold for pain, but by the time I arrived at the hospital, the GERD symptoms had me in tears. My blood pressure was 190/70. It’s normally 120/70, and the nurse told me it was elevated because of the pain I was in.
How My Symptoms of GERD Were Treated
The doctors and nurses ran all kinds of tests. At first, they thought I was having a gall bladder attack. And the symptoms of GERD are similar. I told them, however, I didn’t have a gall bladder – it had been removed years ago, so that couldn’t have been the cause for my symptoms of reflux. Next, they considered cardiac problems, but my EKG and cardiac enzymes tests were normal. They did more tests and x-rays.
My esophagus and stomach lining were inflamed – classic symptoms of reflux. I was given Demerol for pain, phenergan, and an IV bag of Pepcid (famotidine). I didn’t even know you could get Pepcid in IV form! Of course, the Demerol helped relieve the pain – a lot.
I still wasn’t convinced that all my pain was associated with acid reflux symptoms. I was sent home, however, and was able to sleep for almost eight hours – the first good sleep I’d had in days. Today, my pain is almost completely gone. I guess I was suffering from GERD symptoms.
Typical Symptoms of GERD
Most people who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease share similar symptoms of acid reflux. These GERD symptoms include heartburn, or a burning pain in the chest. Some people who suffer from acid reflux might also experience pain or pressure in the neck, back, and/or abdomen. With my acid reflux, it was more of a squeezing pain, with sharp spikes in my stomach and back.
Another common acid reflux symptom is regurgitation. A small amount of stomach acid, and even partially digested food, can rise up the esophagus and into the throat. This happened to me before I began taking Aciphex. A couple of times, I had a related acid reflux symptom. Heartburn acid was regurgitated as I slept, and I inhaled part of it. I woke up choking and coughing, and my lungs felt like they were on fire.
Unusual Symptoms of GERD
In addition to the common symptoms of reflux mentioned above, you might also experience some unusual symptoms of acid reflux.
Nausea and vomiting. These are not common symptoms of GERD, but some patients experience them.
Tooth erosion. Stomach acid is powerful, and when it rises to your mouth, it can adversely affect your teeth. It can eat through the tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.
Ear ache. Yes, believe it or not, acid reflux can affect your ears. How is this possible? When heartburn acid backs up into your mouth, it can enter your Eustachian tubes – the tubes between your throat and ears - and cause an ear ache.
Hoarseness. The heartburn acid can irritate your vocal chords, causing a raspy voice. If you’re a singer, you might also notice that your voice range has been decreased. This has happened to me, too. I was always a first soprano, but now I can’t reach the high notes that I could before experiencing frequent bouts of acid reflux.
Globus. Globus is the feeling that something is stuck in your throat when, in fact, your throat is clear. If you have chronic acid reflux, you might also find that you clear your throat a lot.
Your Acid Reflux Symptoms
If you suffer from acid reflux, your GERD symptoms might be different than mine. I’m convinced that everyone’s body is unique and that no two people will have the exact same symptoms of reflux. You might experience only one GERD symptom, or you might experience all of the above. Amazingly, some people have GERD without having any acid reflux symptoms at all.
If you’re having symptoms of GERD, see your physician immediately. Sure, the symptoms of acid reflux are annoying and can be painful, but if left untreated, GERD can become serious. It can erode the lining of your esophagus and lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition. GERD symptoms can also lead to ulcers, bleeding of the esophagus, and strictures of the esophagus.