Acid reflux affects both adults and children. With adults, symptoms are easier to recognize since children may have trouble explaining the symptoms that they are experiencing. Most commonly, adults will feel heartburn, a symptom that produces sensations of intense pain in the chest. The pain might intensify with changes in position such as lying down or bending. Medications such as antacids might help with pain.
You might notice that your heartburn occurs after you eat certain foods or for no reason at all. You may experience heartburn in the morning, at night, or throughout the day. No matter when you experience heartburn, if you experience the symptom for a period of at least multiple weeks, then there is a chance that you have acid reflux.
Sometimes, the symptoms of acid reflux are difficult to distinguish from other conditions such as indigestion and stomach ulcers. If you have indigestion, then your heartburn may occur more sporadically. Stomach ulcers on the other hand, can produce symptoms that last for a period of at least several weeks. A detailed examination is necessary to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of an ulcer or acid reflux.
Additionally, symptoms of nausea and vomiting might develop. When vomiting, a person might also regurgitate bits of food or feel as though food is stuck in the upper chest. Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing and excessive salivation. Blood in the vomit indicates potentially serious esophageal or stomach damage.
Chronic or persistent symptoms are a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can eventually cause long-term injury. In the case of esophageal injury, respiratory symptoms might develop. Chronic cough, hoarseness, asthma, dental problems, damaged teeth, and sinus problems are indicative of potential damage to the esophagus.
Symptoms may worsen or improve at night. With supine acid reflux, symptoms become worse when a person is lying down and sleeping. With upright acid reflux, symptoms begin when a person is conscious. For both types, symptoms will vary based on their duration and intensity. Both types of acid reflux can indicate the presence of GERD.
Because you are asleep, you may not notice that you are experiencing heartburn. Other people experience heartburn that is so painful that it is difficult to sleep through the night. Many people with persistent heartburn are unable to get a full night's rest.
Certain foods may trigger the onset of symptoms. These include greasy foods, meats that are high in fat, butter, mayonnaise, cream-based sauce, salad dressing, chocolate, dairy products, and beverages with caffeine. Citrus and acidic foods can increase stomach acid production.
For infants and children, symptoms of GERD are more difficult to identify. Children might experience frequent vomiting, an inability to gain weight, crying, belching, and uncontrollable couching. Some young children will not vomit because the stomach contents will travel up and this back down. This type of acid reflux can create double the potential for damage since acid is traveling to the esophagus twice. It is believed that most children eventually outgrow acid reflux when their sphincter matures. In cases when there is a family history for GERD, children are less likely to outgrow the condition.
Barrett's esophagus is a condition that results from excessive heartburn. The normal esophageal lining becomes damaged and replaced with a lining that is typical in the intestines. Those with Barrett's esophagus are likely to develop cancer. Cancer of the esophagus tends to be more common among men than women. Weight loss, pain while eating, problems swallowing, and blood in the vomit are symptoms of Barrett's esophagus.
Sometimes, a heart attack feels like heartburn. If you feel an intense and worsening pain in your chest in addition to numbness or pain in your arm or jaw, then you need to see the doctor immediately. If you are experiencing a heart attack, then you may also have trouble breathing.
If you have chronic acid reflux, then you may notice that certain foods or environmental factors are responsible for triggering your symptoms. If you notice that certain fatty foods are causing your heartburn, then you should do your best to avoid them. If you notice that large portions are causing your acid reflux, then you should try to eat smaller meals throughout the day. Stress can also cause symptoms of heartburn, so try to maintain a balanced lifestyle.