Seven Symptoms of Acid Reflux

by Sara Suchy Editor

Persistent heartburn

The tell-tale sign of acid reflux is persistent mild to severe heartburn. Heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the esophagus just below or behind the breastbone. Most people at some point will have heartburn. Persistent heartburn, however, implies a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle that keeps stomach acid out of the esophagus. That must be addressed by a physician.

Difficulty swallowing

Believe it or not, swallowing is a rather complex physical process that involves the throat muscles, mouth and esophagus in an action that moves food to the stomach. Part of the act of swallowing is voluntary, but most of it, once set in motion, is involuntary. Acid reflux can hinder this process causing difficult and even painful swallowing.

Nausea and vomiting

While acid reflux disease is mostly associated with heartburn symptoms, many patients also report nausea and vomiting as well. Stomach acid leaking into the esophagus can cause a myriad of issues in the gastrointestinal tract other than heartburn.

Acid laryngitis

While less common than other symptoms, some patients report "acid laryngitis" a condition that includes hoarseness, dry cough, the sensation of having a lump in the throat and the need to repeatedly clear the throat. This is usually caused by stomach acid traveling up the esophagus to the throat, causing irritation and inflammation.

Chest sensations or pain

People with acid reflux may have the sensation that food is trapped behind the breastbone. Chest pain is a common symptom of acid reflux disease, but it is very important to differentiate it from chest pain caused by a heart condition such as angina and heart attack.

Coughing and respiratory symptoms

Some acid reflux disease patients reports asthmatic symptoms including coughing and wheezing. In fact, one study found that acid reflux disease accounts for about 41.1 percent of cases of chronic cough in nonsmoking patients.


Up to half of acid reflux patients have dyspepsia, a syndrome marked by pain and discomfort in the upper abdomen, fullness in the stomach and nausea after eating. To avoid this symptom or lessen its severity, patients should eat small meals, avoid acid inducing foods and avoid eating close to bed time.

Sara Suchy
Meet Our Writer
Sara Suchy

Sara is a former editor for HealthCentral.