Here are the Common Signs and Symptoms of GERD in Adults and Children


Researchers estimate that 60 million people in the United States suffer the burning, fiery feeling known as "heartburn" at least once a month. Though people may not imagine them when picturing classic heartburn patients, teens, children, and even infants are among those included in that statistic.

For around 20% of the population, heartburn points to a more concerning issue referred to as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a problem that can seriously affect the health and quality of life of those who live with it. Should you or a loved one experience frequent or intense symptoms pertaining to acid reflux, reach out to Arizona Digestive Health to consult a gastroenterologist who provides GERD treatment in Phoenix, AZ.

What causes GERD to develop?

Located at the lower end of your esophagus (where it meets the stomach) lies a muscular structure named the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When you ingest food or liquids, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes to permit the contents to flow into the stomach. It then closes again to prevent stomach acid from flowing back up. When this muscle fails to work properly, the acid can push up into the esophagus, causing a fiery feeling (heartburn) and possibly an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

GERD is a disease that could arise in those who frequently have problems with acid reflux. Over time, ongoing exposure to stomach acid can induce lasting damage to the esophagus. This may result in discomfort and an increased risk for other complications in or around the esophagus.

Though GERD is not typically caused by any single trigger, there is a range of factors that might lead to ongoing acid reflux in adults and children. These include:

  • Smoking (or exposure to secondhand smoke)
  • Being overweight
  • Eating large meals
  • Consuming high-acidity or spicy foods
  • Lying flat after eating

Younger patients (particularly babies) may also be more likely to develop acid reflux because the muscles in their digestive system have not fully developed.

What are the signs of GERD?

In general, GERD carries many of the same symptoms as acid reflux, but they might be experienced more commonly (a minimum of twice per week at a moderate-to-severe level). Other signs and symptoms arise in time due to ongoing acid reflux. The more common signs and symptoms of GERD in adult patients are:

  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Pain in the chest area
  • Bad breath
  • Choking
  • Frequent burning sensation in the chest (heartburn)
  • Hoarse voice or raw, sore throat
  • Unproductive cough
  • A sensation of a lump of food stuck in the throat
  • Regurgitation of sour liquid or food

Along with the points discussed above, signs of GERD in children may include:

  • Breathing issues, including coughing and/or wheezing
  • Trouble gaining weight
  • Recurring instances of nausea or vomiting (after infancy)
  • Refusing to feed (in infants)

It is especially important to seek treatment for GERD in children before it causes a problem that impacts their long-term growth and health. Should you or your child experience symptoms that could derive from ongoing acid reflux, request a consultation with an Arizona Digestive Health gastrointestinal physician as soon as you can to review your options for treating GERD.

How is GERD generally diagnosed and treated?

Our Phoenix, AZ digestive health specialists may evaluate your symptoms and examine your esophagus for markers of GERD with an endoscope or a pH probe. If you are diagnosed with the disease, your GI doctor may advise implementing several lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding foods known to cause acid reflux, losing excess weight, avoiding lying down after eating, or avoiding smoking.

Your digestive health physician may also recommend medications to minimize acid or strengthen the LES to hinder stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. For some individuals, surgery could be needed to improve the junction between the esophagus and the stomach. Treatment options for GERD in adults or kids may differ on an individual basis, so it's vital to see a gastrointestinal specialist to make sure you get the optimal care for your health.

Treatment for GERD in patients of all ages

Acid reflux signs and symptoms are common, but they may be the beginning of more serious health concerns without treatment. The skilled gastroenterologists at Arizona Digestive Health proudly provide a variety of options to treat GERD in children and adults. For more information about what causes GERD or to find GERD treatment in Phoenix, AZ, request a visit at one of our office locations near you.