Acid reflux is a condition characterized by the back flow (reflux) of the stomach contents into your esophagus. The esophagus, or food pipe, is a muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, acid reflux causes a number of symptoms that range from mild to severe. Outlined below are some of the severe symptoms of acid reflux.
As acid reflux disease progresses, you can suffer from persistent, severe heartburn. Heartburn occurs when the gastric acid in the refluxed stomach contents comes into contact with the unprotected cell wall of the esophagus. This causes a warm, painful, burning sensation in the chest, which usually radiates upward.
Acid reflux can cause severe pain in the chest, which is localized behind the sternum (breastbone). This is noncardiac chest pain that can often be so severe it is misdiagnosed as a symptom of a heart condition.
In serious cases of acid reflux, undigested food and stomach acids are regurgitated up the esophagus and backwash into the mouth. This symptom most commonly occurs shortly after you have had a meal. Regurgitated stomach fluids can enter the windpipe, causing wheezing and other asthma-like symptoms.
Continued exposure of the esophagus to stomach fluids can cause inflammation and scarring of the esophageal lining. Over time, this reflux-induced inflammation constricts the esophagus, which can cause difficulty swallowing. It may also cause a feeling there is a lump in the throat.
In addition to damaging the esophagus, the gastric acid in the refluxed stomach fluids can damage the throat and larynx. This damage results in symptoms that include persistent sore throat, chronic coughing, wheezing and nocturnal choking. Damage to the larynx tends to cause hoarseness and even laryngitis.
When stomach contents are regurgitated into the mouth, the gastric acids soften and erode the tooth enamel, exposing the tooth’s inner dentin layer. This dental erosion, in turn, causes symptoms such as tooth discoloration, heat and cold sensitivity and even tooth loss. It also may cause mouth sores over time.