Can GERD Cause Dizziness And Light-Headedness?

In this article, we will take a close look at gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its potential to cause dizziness and light-headedness. We will understand the causes of GERD, its symptoms, and the various treatment options available. We will also explore the concept of gastric vertigo, a condition associated with GERD.
Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Fifth year medical student at the Medical Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava.

Can GERD cause dizziness and light-headedness?

Yes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause dizziness and light-headedness.

When the reflux of stomach acids enter the throat, they can reach a small channel to the ear, called the eustachian tube. When the strong acids enters the eustachian tube, they can reach the ear and irritate it. This irritation can cause dizziness [1].

Additionally, the acid from the stomach can be aspirated into the sensitive breathing paths, causing irritation. The irritation of the respiratory mucosa leads to swelling. When severe, this enlargement in the breathing system can obstruct normal airflow. Less oxygen enters the lungs, which means less oxygen gets to the blood. As a consequence, especially in stressful situations where the oxygen demand increases, symptoms like light-headedness can occur [1, 2, 3].

What are the causes of GERD?

The primary cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease is the backflow of acid from the stomach to the esophagus. The most common cause of GERD is weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter [4, 5, 6].

Several factors can increase your risk of GERD. These include:

  • obesity,
  • hiatal hernia,
  • delayed stomach emptying,
  • pregnancy [7, 4].

Certain foods can increase the acidity of the stomach, increasing GERD. Common food triggers include:

  • fatty foods,
  • chocolate,
  • coffee,
  • carbonated beverages,
  • alcohol [4, 6].

Also, the use of certain medications can lead to GERD. Examples of such drugs include:

  • nitrates,
  • anti-inflammatory drugs,
  • alpha blockers,
  • sedatives [4].

Additionally, genetic factors play a role in the development of GERD [8]. This also means that predisposing factors for GERD can be inherited.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

One of the most common symptoms of GERD is heartburn. This burning sensation in the middle of the chest occurs mostly after meals and during the night [9, 10, 11].

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • regurgitation,
  • painful swallowing,
  • chest pain,
  • chronic cough,
  • hoarse voice,
  • nausea or vomiting [9, 10, 11].

What is gastric vertigo?

Gastric vertigo describes the vertigo caused by gastric issues.

Gastric vertigo can be caused by GERD. In fact, peripheral vertigo presents in the majority of GERD-affected patients [12]. It can be the result of ear irritation caused by stomach acid.

Gastric vertigo can present with a variety of symptoms. The most common include:

How can I treat GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is not a rare health problem. An effective therapy is a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and, in specific cases, surgery.

Most important in the management of GERD are lifestyle changes. You should not eat large portions of food. Also, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks [15, 6].

Additionally, you should control your weight and quit smoking. An important aspect of GERD therapy is not lying down after eating [15, 6]. This allows all the acid to accumulate in the lower parts of the stomach.

The pharmacological treatment of GERD focuses on reducing the acidity in the stomach. To achieve a higher pH, most commonly, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are used [16].

In cases where you don’t respond well to the initial proton pump inhibitors or your GERD is not that severe, alternatives are available. Among the second-choice drugs are H2 receptor blockers and antacids [17].

In some cases, your doctor can prescribe you antidepressants and mucosa-protective medications [18].

In severe cases of GERD, surgery can be a solution. Surgical treatment of GERD includes laparoscopic fundoplication, magnetic sphincter augmentation, and endoscopic therapies [19, 16, 6].

When should I see a doctor with GERD?

You should see a doctor when you experience symptoms of GERD more than a few times a week. The more severe the symptoms are, the faster you should see your doctor.

It is also advised for you to see a doctor if you are already taking some medication for your reflux that is not helpful.

In cases of strong chest pain, you should immediately seek medical attention. Chest pain can be a symptom of many serious conditions, like heart attacks. The origin of the pain has to be diagnosed as soon as possible.

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Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub is in his fifth year as a medical student at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. He has special interested in cardiology and in patient-centered medicine. His love for heart health isn't just book-smarts; he wants to know how it works, what it means for our feelings, and how key it is for health and happiness. Jakub thinks real good health care comes from always putting the patient at the centre, treating each person as a whole.