When should I see my doctor about my GERD symptoms

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You should see your doctor about GERD or heartburn before waiting too long. A burning chest discomfort may be GERD or it could be something else such as a heart problem. Angina or heart pain can be difficult to differentiate from GERD. If you are not sure or have any questions, this should prompt a visit to your doctor, especially if the discomfort is associated with shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, and/or arm or jaw pain or if the chest discomfort is associated with exercise. People with risk factors associated with heart disease such as a family history of heart attacks, smokers, those with high blood pressure, and those with high cholesterol are at increased risk for heart disease, and any chest pain warrants a doctor visit.

Assuming the GERD is really just heartburn, any of the following requires a visit to your doctor:

• If you have had problems with GERD for more than a few months and are regularly taking over-the-counter medications. You may want to see your doctor because there may be better or more appropriate medications.

• If you experience GERD symptoms three times or more per week. This frequency may increase GERD complications.

• If you have any difficulty swallowing, with food or liquids getting stuck.

• If you wake at night coughing or choking or experience increased symptoms of asthma. This may be a manifestation of GERD.

• If you experience recurrent sinus infections, unexplained changes in voice such as hoarseness, or ringing in the ears (also called tinnitus). This may be atypical manifestations of GERD.

Any one of these symptoms can be treated and should be evaluated by a doctor because further testing or medication may be in order.

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