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GERD with arm & vagal symptoms

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Old 03-19-2005, 08:41 PM   #1
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raspberries HB User
GERD with arm & vagal symptoms


I'm a recent lurker and appreciate the voices of experience on this board. GERD can be such a nerve-wracking experience!

Longish history to follow with some questions near the end.

I am a 40 y.o. woman who has had very occasional heartburn for the past 19 years. About 4 years ago I started getting odd pains in my rib cage (felt much like post-surgical phrenic nerve irritation) and went to see my family physician twice with those vague complaints. I walked away feeling like a real hypochondriac, too.

The second time I had also complained of a feeling of something being stuck at my diaphragm as well as tingling in my left arm along the ulnar distribution. My doctor suggested that it could be GERD and that I could try a two-week trial of OTC ranitidine and go from there. But since I was nursing my son, I decided to let that slide. It all went away within a month.

Cut to last fall. I have a gnawing knot of pain behind the lower sternum and a "sticky" painful sore throat, especially on one side. What's more, I wake in the middle of the night, coughing from brash in my throat, and realize that this nocturnal coughing has been going on for a couple of years, off and on. I do have GERD! I feel okay on awakening but after I eat something, there is hell to pay for the rest of the day! I try Zantac 75 bid. The pain remits after a week and stays away for two or three months.

It flares up again a month ago. Try Zantac and strict eating and postural discipline. Everything clears up. I backslide. The pain comes back worse than ever. One evening I bend over, feel something sort of give way in my chest and suffer from clenching pain for two days, just behind the xiphoid process. Felt more like spasms than anything. I also notice pain on exertion, but only if I am using my arms.

So I see the doctor again, she recommends 20 mg. omeprazole bid and an EGD (which I have done two days from now). I have been on Prilosec for five days now and notice that I am largely free of pain, still have a fullness in the throat.

So what I would like to know is how common vasovagal episodes are with reflux. Today, while riding in the car, I suddenly felt as if I would pass out. No seeing stars or roaring in the ears, just a fleeting feeling of profound weakness and the knowledge that I would faint. Except I didn't. Got the same feeling in the next half hour and noted that it happened when acid splashed up fairly high--something which seldom happens to me.

And what's with the arms? I haven't explained that phenomenon well, yet. I can be pushing my toddler's stroller, carrying him on my hip, or even just stirring a stiff dumpling batter with a lot of gusto and will get a peculiar, dragging sensation in the pit of my chest. If I press my elbows on a desk too hard, or get my hands really cold, I get chest pain. The tingling in the last two fingers of my left hand has also come back. My theory is that my hands are more sensitive because my esophagus is being digested into sludge and the arm & chest nerve pathways are interconnected. ANyone else experience this?

My doctor did not see fit to pursue cardiac testing because of age and family Hx; people in all branches of my family all die in their nineties and hundreds.

Oh yeah--what's with the PVCs? My heart "thumps" several times a day as much as it did when I was pregnant, or in the days when two pots of coffee wasn't quite enough!

Thanks for any insight.

Beth (a.k.a. raspberries)

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Old 03-20-2005, 11:52 AM   #2
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Stockdale, TX USA
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TexasCookie HB User
Re: GERD with arm & vagal symptoms

Beth I hope someone can give you an answer. As for myslef I get horrible, make me cry burning pain in my upper right chest, sometimes with burning in my throat and right ear. Most of the time this ends with a few really loose bowel movements and then its gone for a week or so. I also have the heart palps and recently went back to sugar from artificial sweetners hoping THEY would stop. So far I'm still having them but they seem to occur as often.

Hopefully both of us will get some answers. As for me these pains scare the crap out of me and I wonder if the looses stools are part of the pain or part of the fear.
Mary Lou

Old 03-22-2005, 05:47 AM   #3
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mjcm123 HB User
Re: GERD with arm & vagal symptoms

Hi Beth. I too have tingling in my extremities and heart palps. No doctor has indicated that it has to do with Gerd. I am on Nexium and thought perhaps it has to do with that. I am going to a Lyme specialist next week to rule that out. Bottom line, I believe it has to do with the acid reflux but I also think it is best to rule out what you can to be on the safe side. It is very scary to have these sensations without any explanation. Keep me posted. Jen

Old 03-22-2005, 01:14 PM   #4
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raspberries HB User
Re: GERD with arm & vagal symptoms


Thanks to you and Texascookie for your responses.

I also had the L arm tinging in 2003, along with a lot of other paresthesias, mainly in face and feet. My physician ordered a brain MRI and Lyme titer to rule out MS and Lyme disease (I live western Wisconsin, in the worst area in the country for Lyme, aside from Connecticut, so we are vigilant here).

The MRI came out fine and so did the Lyme titer. I think I had overlapping reasons for the tingling back then, because my son was 11 months old and getting 99.9% of his nutrition from my milk. Then he suddenly started eating, the nursing slacked off a little bit, my cycles returned and the paresthesias vanished. My theory: postmenopausal and nursing women don't have much estrogen, estrogen protects nerve function. There you have it.

But now the L arm pain and tingling is back. I believe that it is related to the GERD, because I only have it during rough flare-ups, when there is a constant knot of pain in my chest.

The other arm stuff also settles down a little when my GERD is not flaring up, but it still reminds me that it is there when my hands get cold and a ball of pain forms in my chest at the same time. The first time that happened, I warmed up my hands, put on mittens, and then charged up and down a steep hill until I was winded. No chest pain! I wonder what the deal is . . .

Old 03-23-2005, 08:24 PM   #5
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stangbabe01 HB User
Re: GERD with arm & vagal symptoms

I have been experiencing a lot of the same symptoms that I just read that you have. I have been to a gastroenterologist and he wanted to do endoscopy and colonoscpy...but I decided against it. There are times when the pain in the left side of the top ribcage is so bad that I wonder if I am having a heart attack. I have had all the heart tests 2 yrs ago and numerous EKG's since and have all been normal. I experience pain in the ribcage and also in the left arm and back. Lately I have also been getting a heavy feeling in my lower arms and hands. If this sounds familiar and if anyone has had any help in healing with natural products please let me know...sometimes I feel like I am going crazy!!!

Old 03-27-2005, 02:39 PM   #6
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prendi HB User
Re: GERD with arm & vagal symptoms

have any of you had a pain in your left shoulder with the gerd?i have had it for 5 months now,but not been diagnosed with anything sounds very similar to all your complaints,pain under the left ribcage,hot sick coming up,a full throat,cough,also a burning pain under my left armpit,plz let me know if any of you have the shoulder pain.thx

Old 03-27-2005, 09:28 PM   #7
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raspberries HB User
Re: GERD with arm & vagal symptoms

Originally Posted by prendi
plz let me know if any of you have the shoulder pain.thx
I do, sometimes. Also down the underside of the arm, but mostly the medial aspect of the elbow and along the ulna and last two digits.

That is classic for angina pectoris, too, and you may want to rule it out. My own M.D. did not do that, but I am 40F with *very* old, healthy rellies. We seem to have to be over seventy and a heavy smoker or over ninety and shoveling snow before the MI.

I also had referred pain to the L neck, just behind the angle of my jaw, and behind the sternum, as far down as the xiphoid process. Have had other odd pains at other times, all throughout the ribcage, top to bottom, front to back.

EGD last week showed GERD with mild esophagitis and moderate gastritis with erosions.

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