Is GERD Different In Senior Citizens?

GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease became quite common these day and can be observed among millions of people. However there is a bitter truth; as we age, the chance of suffering with GERD also increases.

Elderly people are more likely to suffer with this disease than young people. If we think of the symptoms of a normal patient suffering from GERD, it is quite different from the elderly patients.

The most commonly observed symptom of GERD is heartburn but elder people usually do not complain of this problem but it something different about which we are going to talk today. For younger patients heartburn is felt behind the breastbone while elderly people feel it in the throat, lungs or even mouth.

Is GERD Different In Senior Citizens ?

Symptoms of GERD Among Senior Citizens

As said before heartburn can be felt in the mouth, throat and lungs. The symptoms include dry cough, hoarseness, a kind of feeling as if food is stuck in the throat. They usually feel it difficult swallowing food; this is known as a dysphagia or chronic sore throat. Coughing and wheezing are common respiratory symptoms of GERD. Other than heartburn, dry cough, etc. there are few more symptoms to be considered. These include nausea, chest pain while lying down or waking up, bitter taste in the mouth, pain while swallowing, food regurgitation into the mouth, etc.

Elderly people who have any chronic disease are more likely to develop GERD. SOme medicines used by them may cause acid reflux or GERD. You might have known that saliva is alkaline in nature while acid reflux means your body became acidic. Elderly people usually have reduced salivary production which is again on the negative side. More saliva if produced can neutralize the acid and control acid reflux.

If you are suffering with GERD and if you have already spoken to your doctor on how to control these symptoms then make sure to follow it properly; but if you haven’t visited the doctor yet then go to the doctor as soon as possible and take required measure.


There are many complications involved with GERD especially among senior citizens. These include esophageal hemorrhage, pulmonary aspiration, Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal cancer, etc. The most common disease among elder GERD patients is esophagitis. This disease condition can result in severe erosions, even hemorrhage, ulceration, etc. Esophageal strictures are also common among these patients. These patients are usually treated by aggressive antireflux therapy and esophageal dilatation. Chronic exposure to acid reflux can lead to Barrett’s esophagus which is a premalignant condition associated to adenocarcinoma of esophagus. This condition should be evaluated as early as possible by endoscopy.

Similarly pulmonary complications are also included such as chronic cough, recurrent pneumonitis, asthma, aspiration pneumonia, etc. and these are the results of reflux induced activation of vasovagal arc.

How To Cure Heartburn Symptom And Control GERD?

It is sad to know that heartburn symptom cannot be cured completely but there few tips with which you can definitely reduce the effect of this symptom. Check and try each one of them.

  1. Check what are all the food items that cause heartburn. Few of these foods include citrus fruits and their juices, tomato products, chocolates, vinegar, mint, mustard, fried foods, highly seasoned foods, spicy foods, fatty foods, etc. Make a list of these foods and avoid them completely. Similarly check all those foods which has very low risk of causing heartburn and add them to your diet.
  2. Also avoid all the caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, cokes, etc. as they relax LES.
  3. Avoid alcohol products completely since it also relaxes LES. Your body is already acidic and you should not add more acid to it.
  4. Avoid large meals and take more small meals with small gaps in between.
  5. Do not sleep immediately after having dinner. Wait for at least 3 hours after having your meal and the go to bed.
  6. Make sure to keep your head and shoulders at a height of 6 to 8 inches higher than the rest of your body while sleeping. This will prevent your acid in the stomach to flow upwards and will stay in your stomach.
  7. Avoid wearing clothes which are tight at your waist and stomach. Wear loose clothes always.
  8. Do not slouch and always sit in a comfortable chair. Slouching is not at all good for your stomach.
  9. If you have a habit of smoking then it is time to quit since it can increase the risk of heartburn.
  10. Before you take any over-the counter medicine yourself, consult your doctor. Do not take your own decision in case medicines.

This proves that GERD among senior citizens can be really dangerous and is very much different than those in younger people.