U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Symptoms and Causes of GER and GERD

What are the symptoms of GER and GERD?

If you have gastroesophageal reflux (GER), you may taste food or stomach acid in the back of your mouth.

The most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is regular heartburn, a painful, burning feeling in the middle of your chest, behind your breastbone, and in the middle of your abdomen. Not all adults with GERD have heartburn.

Other common GERD symptoms include

  • bad breath
  • nausea
  • pain in your chest or the upper part of your abdomen
  • problems swallowing or painful swallowing
  • respiratory problems
  • vomiting
  • the wearing away of your teeth

​Some symptoms of GERD come from its complications, including those that affect your lungs.

What causes GER and GERD?

GER and GERD happen when your lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes due to certain things, such as
  • increased pressure on your abdomen from being overweight, obese, or pregnant
  • certain medicines, including
    • those that doctors use to treat asthma—a long-lasting disease in your lungs that makes you extra sensitive to things that you’re allergic to
    • calcium channel blockers—medicines that treat high blood pressure
    • antihistamines—medicines that treat allergy symptoms
    • painkillers
    • sedatives—medicines that help put you to sleep
    • antidepressants—medicines that treat depression
  • smoking, or inhaling secondhand smoke​

A hiatal hernia can also cause GERD. Hiatal hernia is a condition in which the opening in your diaphragm lets the upper part of the stomach move up into your chest, which lowers the pressure in the esophageal sphincter.

When should I seek a doctor’s help?

You should see a doctor if you have persistent GER symptoms that do not get better with over-the-counter medications or change in your diet.

Call a doctor right away if you

  • ​​vomit large amounts
  • have regular projectile, or forceful, vomiting
  • vomit fluid that is
    • green or yellow
    • looks like coffee grounds
    • contains blood
  • have problems breathing after vomiting
  • have pain in the mounth or throat when you eat
  • have problems swallowing or painful swallowing
​​​​November 13, 2014​

Digestive Disease Organizations

Many organizations provide support to patients and medical professionals. View the full list of Digestive Disease Organizations​​ (PDF, 341 KB)​​​​​

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