The chest pain from GERD can feel just like the chest pain that occurs during a heart attack or one that’s about to occur.
GERD is a very common condition. Unfortunately, the chest pain that gastroesophageal reflux disease causes can be severe enough to mimic a heart attack, says Dr. Maxwell Chait, MD, gastroenterologist at ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group in Westchester County, NY.
Can an abdominal spasm be the only symptom of GERD?
Dr. Chait responds that the problem could be an esophageal spasm or “nutcracker esophagus.”
He adds, “These are true spasms of the muscle of the esophagus and can cause chest or upper abdominal pain that can be severe and mimic a heart attack.”
If you’re in the ER and report this symptom, you will have blood drawn to see if an enzyme called troponin has leaked into your blood.
The test for this is extremely sensitive and hence, extremely accurate in determining if you’ve had a recent heart attack or if you’re in the process of having one.
When cardiac muscle is damaged, troponin leaks from the tissue into the bloodstream.
But back to the abdominal spasm or a hiccup-like sensation…
Dr. Chait says that this can also “be associated with a sensation called water brash, which is the welling up of fluid in the mouth that one feels just before they vomit.”
He adds, “Both may be warning signs of GERD when it is associated with more severe problems such as esophagitis, gastritis, ulcer disease, etc.
“The spasm feeling also may not be related to the esophagus and actually be related to diseases of the gallbladder, stomach or pancreas.
“Either way, when someone gets these severe symptoms, they need further evaluation by their doctor.”
Severe chest pain or abdominal pain should never be ignored, nor should one attempt to make a diagnosis; medical imaging can reveal a lot about what’s going on in the body, and that includes GERD.
Dr. Chait’s practice interests include digestive conditions such as colon cancer, gastrointestinal endoscopy and internal medicine. He has authored numerous publications in reputed journals.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.