Uncovering Hidden GERD Symptoms: Impact on Overall Health

Uncovering Hidden GERD Symptoms: Impact on Overall Health

Published on Saturday, July 15, 2023 by Piedad Cardona

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can manifest in surprising ways beyond the regular heartburn.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus. 

The classic symptoms, such as heartburn, regurgitation, and difficulty swallowing, are easily recognized by many.  However, some patients may experience less obvious symptoms, such as persistent cough, weight loss, chronic sore throat, or laryngitis can make it challenging to recognize and seek medical attention.

Symptoms such as chronic cough, weight loss, chronic sore throat, laryngitis, hoarseness, or cavities may be mistaken for other conditions, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment. Often, a diagnosis is made by a specialist other than a gastroenterologist because individuals may mistake their symptoms. 

Unfortunately, delaying treatment can negatively impact an individual's overall health, as GERD symptoms can worsen over time; conversely, they are treated as uncomplicated acid reflux, and proper diagnosis as COPD is delayed.

Persistent or Chronic Cough

Acid reflux causes cough by irritating the airways. If the acid reflux is not treated, the cough may persist and may be mistaken for a lung problem. 

It is interesting to note that conditions like asthma, COPD, and COVID-19 may have a close relationship with GERD.  People with asthma are at a higher risk of developing GERD, and certain asthma medications, like theophylline, may worsen reflux symptoms, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Frequent cough may cause the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach contents and acid to flow back into the esophagus. Conversely, this acid reflux worsens cough by irritating the airways.

It is recommended that patients with these symptoms consider making an appointment with a specialist like a pulmonologist to rule out diseases like Asthma and COPD.

Chronic Throat Symptoms

Chronic sore throat, laryngitis, or hoarseness are other common symptoms that may lead a patient directly to an ENT specialist for a proper diagnosis.

An ENT specialist can examine the throat and larynx for signs of inflammation and irritation and may recommend further testing to determine the underlying cause of the symptoms. It's essential to seek medical attention if you experience any persistent or unusual symptoms, as untreated GERD can lead to serious long-term complications.

Weight Loss

When it comes to difficulty or pain when swallowing, it's essential to understand that it can lead to a reduction in food intake and subsequent weight loss. While GERD is one potential cause of these symptoms, many other factors and conditions can contribute to it. Therefore, it's critical for your primary care physician to thoroughly evaluate your symptoms and identify all possible underlying causes to effectively manage your condition and ensure you receive the appropriate treatment.

Dental Issues

Dentists also play a crucial role in managing dental issues caused by GERD, such as cavities and gum inflammation. Regular check-ups and cleanings can help maintain good oral health and prevent further complications. Dentists can also provide education and resources to manage GERD symptoms and reduce the risk of dental problems.

To receive appropriate medical care, you must visit your primary care physician and get a referral to a specialist if needed. For individuals with concurrent conditions like GERD and asthma, managing GERD can help control asthma symptoms.

Managing GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can involve lifestyle changes such as avoiding trigger foods, losing weight, and elevating the head of the bed while sleeping. In addition, medication can be prescribed by a primary care physician or specialist to reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach.

By effectively managing GERD, individuals may experience relief from asthma symptoms and other related conditions. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized treatment options and to address any concerns.

  1. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2023, January 4). Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, May 17). COPD: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment & prevention. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8709-chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd 
  3. Asthma. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (n.d.). https://www.aaaai.org/Conditions-Treatments/Asthma 
  4. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (n.d.). https://www.aaaai.org/Conditions-Treatments/Related-Conditions/gastroesophageal-reflux-disease

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