Odds are that you have experienced heartburn at some point in your life. Millions of people suffer from heartburn at least once a month. For others, heartburn or other symptoms of digestive upset can occur a lot more often. Commercials on TV tell us that experiencing heartburn two or more times a week could be a sign of acid reflux disease, or GERD. What isn't discussed as often, and which can only be truly diagnosed by a doctor, is that heartburn can be a symptom of other upper digestive disorders.
Other symptoms besides heartburn, such as diarrhea and difficulty swallowing, can also be symptoms of a digestive disorder. Then there are those symptoms, such as abdominal pain or nausea, that can indicate a digestive disorder but can also be symptoms of other conditions. This is why you should discuss your symptoms with your doctor for an evaluation to diagnose the cause.
Knowing the symptoms of GERD, hiatal hernias, para-esophageal hernias, and peptic ulcers can give you a starting point for discussion with your doctor about any concerns you have about a possible digestive problem.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also referred to as acid reflux disease, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and stomach contents reflux back up into the esophagus.
Heartburn and acid regurgitation are the main symptoms of GERD, though some people with GERD don't experience any heartburn episodes. Other symptoms may be present as well, including a chronic cough and hoarseness in the morning.
Symptoms of GERD can differ from person to person, and may vary depending on age. For this reason, I have listed symptoms of GERD and arranged them into different age groups for your convenience.
- Symptoms of GERD in Adults
- Symptoms of GERD in Infants
- Symptoms of GERD in Children
- Symptoms of GERD in Teens
Hiatal Hernia Symptoms
There are two categories of hiatal hernias -- sliding or paraesophageal. A sliding hiatal hernia is one in which the junction where the esophagus and stomach meet, along with part of the stomach, slides up into the chest. There can be a few factors that may cause a hiatal hernia. The majority of all hiatal hernias are the sliding type.
The other type of hiatal hernia is the para-esophageal hernia. This is when the junction between the esophagus and stomach remains where it belongs, but part of the stomach is squeezed up into the chest beside the esophagus. These hernias remain in the chest at all times. With this type of hernia, complications are more likely to occur, such as incarceration and strangulation. Incarceration means the hernia is stuck and being squeezed. Strangulation results from the lack of blood supply, leading to death of the tissues involved.
Many people with the sliding type of hiatal hernia may never have symptoms specific to the hernia. Most symptoms are like those for GERD.
Peptic Ulcer Symptoms
Peptic ulcers can cause a variety of symptoms, and these vary from patient to patient. Some patients with ulcers have minimal, unusual, or even no symptoms at all. Others may have every symptom. This is why it is very important to consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
There are some symptoms that require immediate medical attention as they can indicate an emergency situation.
The symptoms of a peptic ulcer can also occur as a result of other conditions. One example is gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Signs of GI Tract Bleeding
Bleeding in the digestive tract isn't a disease itself, but is a sign of a disease. Bleeding can be caused by a number of different conditions.
It is important to remember that some bleeds, particularly those that occur in the upper gastrointestinal tract, can be large and fatal. Therefore, it is very important to be evaluated by a physician if you suspect you may have GI bleeding.
Chronic gastrointestinal bleeding can cause anemia in the patient. It is therefore important to know the symptoms of anemia.