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Chest Tightness as a Symptom of GERD

written by: Emma Lloyd • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 6/24/2010

The main symptom of GERD is severe and frequent episodes of acid reflux, but other symptoms are often present too. Is chest tightness one of them? Read this article to learn about chest tightness and GERD.

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    Symptoms of GERD

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) develops due to the regurgitation of small amounts of stomach contents. Many people have the occasional episode of acid reflux, but someone who experiences two or more such episodes per week is said to have GERD.

    GERD symptoms can include pain and burning in the chest and throat, hoarseness, and cough. More rarely, GERD can cause respiratory symptoms, worsen the chronic symptoms of asthma, and even trigger asthma attacks in some people.

    In some people, GERD can sometimes cause a feeling of tightness in the chest. This might be in addition to or instead of a burning sensation.

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    Chest Tightness and GERD

    For most people, GERD causes painful, burning sensations in the chest, especially after meals. This symptom develops due to regurgitation of stomach contents after meals, which causes inflammation of the esophagus. Some people experience different sensations in the chest, such as a feeling of tightness, in addition to or instead of pain. Chest tightness is a relatively common symptom, but chest tightness and GERD don't always occur together.

    Why does GERD cause chest tightness in some people and not in others?

    The reason is simply that acid reflux damages the esophagus, but the damage isn't done in exactly the same way for everyone with GERD. In some people, nerves in the esophagus can be damaged by regurgitated stomach acid. When this occurs, the result can be relatively unusual symptoms such as chest tightness, tingling, and other sensations.

    When caused by GERD, chest tightness is not a dangerous symptom, although it can be frightening to feel chest tightness in conjunction with chest pain and other symptoms of GERD. However, GERD is not the only disease that can cause chest tightness.

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    Chest Tightness can be a Sign of more Serious Disease

    In addition to being a symptom of GERD, chest tightness can also be a symptom of angina, a disease which develops because blood flow to the heart is restricted. Restricted blood flow is usually caused by atherosclerosis, otherwise known as coronary artery disease. Angina can lead to other cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, so chest tightness should never be assumed to be a minor symptom.

    Chest tightness and pain might be angina if it develops after exercise or during moments of stress. The symptom might be a heart attack if it develops after exercise, and is a severe or squeezing type of pain that persists longer than five to ten minutes.

    If you experience any type of chest tightness it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor, even though there’s a good chance it might be a symptom of GERD. Chest tightness can be a symptom of GERD, but it’s best not to overlook it, especially when it appears for the first time.

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    References

    Harvard Health Publications: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (heartburn)

    Highland GERD Institute: Information on GERD and Acid Reflux