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Acid Reflux or Panic Attacks?

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  • Acid Reflux or Panic Attacks?

    I'm new to the forum. (25 year old male) I've been lurking here over the past few days because I've been searching the internet researching various symptoms that I've been experiencing lately. I just wanted to post my recent experiences and collect various opinions.

    On Dec 2nd I visited my GP because I was experiencing flu-like symptoms (coughing, congestion, sore throat). She diagnosed me with a simple sinus infection and prescribed me an antibiotic (Cetrin) and prescription decongestant (Duratuss GP). She took a swab from my throat to test for strep. That came back positive.

    I took the antibiotic and decongestant and felt better from the flu-like symptoms, but began experiencing bouts of chest pain, indigestion, nausea, and dizziness. I had been experiencing brief "spells" like this since late May of this year. These particular symptoms (chest pain, indigestion, nausea, dizziness) would surface and then go away within a matter of an hour or two. The frequency seemed to be approximately once every two weeks. I actually visited the ER the first time this sort of spell occured. On that trip to the ER, they ran a battery of tests on me (EKG, drug tests, head scan, chest X-ray). They didn't find anything wrong with me, except that I had an inner ear infection at that time.

    On Dec 8th, I returned to my GP to discuss these spells with her. When I told her I was having bouts of chest pain, she took an EKG reading. She determined that there was nothing abnormal with the EKG, but that my heart was beating slightly fast (112 bpm). During this visit she asked me various questions, but I picked up that maybe she suspected I was suffering from panic attacks. She instructed me to wear a halter monitor for a 24-hour period as well. That night while I was wearing the halter monitor, I experienced bouts of nausea and dizziness (no chest pain). I also felt as if my stomach was just full of acid and my gut was burning. The next day when I returned the monitor to my GP, I told her about the nausea, dizziness, and acid. She prescribed me 20mg of Aciphex to take daily. She also said it would take approximately one week to get the results of the halter monitor test back.

    On Dec 15th, I called my GP to find out the results of the halter monitor test. The results came back as my heart was normal, but there would be periods throughout the night where my heartrate would temporarily slow down or speed up. But, she said at no point was it ever in what would be considered a danger range. Nevertheless, she prescribed me a beta blocker (25 mg Toprol-XL) to slow my heartrate down a bit, and she setup an appointment with the cardiologist. That's appointment is scheduled for Jan 2nd. I believe my GP wants to absolutely rule out my heart as the source of problems before proceeding with my workup and diagnosis.

    Since last speaking with my GP on the 15th, I've been experiencing symptoms that seem more GI-related in my opinion. I've been waking up in the morning with nausea, and the feeling that there is a substantial amount of acid in my stomach. This is accompanied by chest pains that seems to move around all over the place in my chest at various points (both upper and lower chest), and I also seem to have a LOT of gas and burping. The burping usually releives the sharper chest pains, but my chest has been hurting so frequently over the past few weeks that it's just kind of sore at this point. Eating something seems to reduce the burning pain from the acid in my gut, but I kind of have to force the food down most of the time because I just don't have an appetite. I've also been kind of depressed and emotional during this time period too.

    I decided to get out of my apt with my wife and child this afternoon to take care of some last minute Christmas shopping. When we got into heavy traffic today, I began to feel anxious and nauseas. After the trip was over, and we arrived back to the apt, I vomited, which made me feel better.

    I'm starting to think I have GI problems that are inducing panic attacks or vice versa?

    How crazy am I?

  • #2
    i belive i can help a lil

    Wassup bro,im 24 yo male from chicago your symptoms sound just like mine.Now like other people on here im not a dr so dont read into everything im sayin,but ive been where you been..right before i turned 21 i had a full blown panic attack it was wicked something i wouldnt wish on my enemy ya know.well i wore the monitor it came back good,they told me i had anxiety till this day i worry bout my heart but thats normal when its racing right lol..well a lil time in between i still habve anxiety like crazy,i come down with gerd,your symptoms match up mine to a t bro.nausea chest tighness,feel in your throat its terrible..i took aciphex i got better,i take xanax for anxiety..than this may like a year and half after i got gerd i just got nausea,acid like 24-7 with bad life was hell..i thought i was dying etc (still do lol),but i found theses people that open up to you and for me knowing im not the only out there with this made me feel like way better ya know..get a ppi i bet you get better with anti dep,just my 2 cents..theres people here to help,im getting better but its one day at a is key,no fried foods,no carbonated beverage no alcohol (grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr) well your body will be happy!!i know what its like im 24 with 10 month yr ol girl im bout to shopping now..i hope i helped you,God Bless!!!


    • #3
      Hopefully it isn't your heart! A lot of symptoms are similar between heart problems and reflux.

      I had very similar symptoms as you. I had rapid heartbeats at night some that even woke me up and made me feel dizzy and nauseas. These were caught on a hospital monitor (they got up to 180bpm) I had a full cardio workup (stress test, echo, ECG, EP study) and all was normal. They also ruled out panic attacks. I also have shortness of breath, dizziness, chest and back pain.

      What they found is that I have sleep apnea as well as reflux (I have the Laryngeal-pharyngeal kind) I am on CPAP for the apnea and on Aciphex and a sleeping wedge for the reflux. Both seem to be improving quite a bit. It was hard for them to convince me I had reflux, tho, because I rarely ever had heartburn or anything before. Now that i know I have it, I can see some signs of it. Plus, the cardiologists were skeptical about the apnea because I am only slightly overweight and don't snore. But it showed on a sleep study.

      It is smart, though, to get your heart checked out because all of these symptoms are just like heart problems - my family doc said based on my symptoms he first thought I was in heart failure.

      Good luck getting it figured out.


      • #4
        It was scary when I first started researching these symptoms because they are all indicators of heart disease. But after further research, I found that there are several conditions they match up to. (All of my symptoms actually fall into panic attack symptoms from what I've read.) The research did prompt me to go see my GP. I need to get these symptoms resolved and get on with my life. I hate being sick for this long, esp around the holidays, it just adds to the stress.


        • #5
          Yes, a lot of your symptoms could possibly fall under panic--some are stretching it a bit-- but then those same symptoms are symptoms for quite a few gi diseases as well. -- including gerd. Self diagnosis isn't always accurate-- many afflictions share similar symptoms.

          You have to rule out metabolic causes out first- always-- and futher heart testing is needed. If symptoms continue you really should have an endoscopy to rule out upper GI causes -- an upper GI -- you should definately have an h pylori blood test to check for ulcers and gastritis Also your symptoms sound much like gastroparesis as well - a gastric emptying study should be done.

          Also a motility problem could be causing chest pain and nausea-- you should have a manometry test.- and ph test for gerd if endoscopy is negative. Good luck


          • #6
            similar symptoms

            Hi tpd,

            The symptoms you've described are quite similar to my experience. I too had rapid heartbeats,skipped heartbeat, nausea, dizziness, chills and just not feeling my normal self. Was also prescribed a beta blocker, atenolol and after taking it, felt more depressed. I only took it for 2 weeks and discontinued because of how I felt. In hindsight, it was probably the acid reflux that was causing my problems and not the drugs. Like you my dizziness would come and go lasting for several hours at a time. My first bout with this dreaded disease was in Dec. of 2001 and I've noticed that my heartrate would generally get slower if my heartburn was under control. Since you've got a few weeks until you see the cardiologist you should try to eliminate your intake of caffine, alcohol, chocolates, etc.. and see if you start feeling better. It takes months to heal your esophagus but only if you abide by the "rules". Good idea to get the heart checked out but it sure sounds like you're experiencing what I've been through with GERD or LPR. Today I'm much better but not back 100%( Unless a new drug becomes available or I elect surgery.)

            Don't worry too much. I know it's hard not too when you're going through this. If you start changing your lifestyle in addition to taking medication, you'll be on the road to recovery.

            Good luck.


            • #7
              Hi tpd,

              It was chest pain that sent me to my doctor. EKG and stress test ruled out heart problems, but I still couldn't get rid of the feeling that heart problems were going to strike. Don't know how many times I almost went to the ER thinking "heart attack."

              Turns out that stress / anxiety played a major role in my GERD problem. Excessive stress / anxiety is known to be a cause of GERD - or, if other factors are present, can be a major mitigating factor, as it was in my case. Anxiety causes the unnecessary release of cholecystokinin (CCK), a neuro-transmitter which, among other things, regulates bile flow. In your post you write:

              "That night while I was wearing the halter monitor, I experienced bouts of nausea and dizziness (no chest pain). I also felt as if my stomach was just full of acid and my gut was burning."

              Anxiety disorder and/or panic attacks and the abnormal release of CCK can lead to increased bile flow which can cause bile reflux into the stomach, causing the stomach to pump in acid to neutralize the bile. Perhaps this is why you felt your stomach was full of acid and your gut was burning.

              My experience with GERD is posted over in the GERD and Anxiety forum. This link should take you there:


              Some other links about the connection between anxiety / panic disorder - bile reflux - GERD are posted in that forum.

              If you scroll through the replies to my post, you'll find more information about the connection between anxiety and GERD. It was overcoming an anxiety problem with medication that finally stopped my GERD problem.

              Hopes and prayers.



              • #8

                Well, this morning (1/2/04) I had the appoinment with the cardiologist. We did an echocardiogram and another EKG. Everything showed normal with my heart. She believes my problems are stress/anxiety and GI related. She called my GP and they're setting up an appointment for me to have an upper endoscopy done. I'm supposed to discontinue use of the beta blocker and start taking a different ppi (Protonix 40mg) twice daily. I've been taking Protonix since Dec 23rd (just 40mg once daily), and I've discontinued the Aciphex 20mg. Aciphex wasn't cutting it for me. The Protonix seems to have helped significantly, but I still have some GI symptoms. Seems to be mainly heartburn now, I'm not so nauseas anymore. I do think I might be having panic attacks still though. I get these periods where I just feel nervous.. and nothing seems to calm me down easily.. I feel relieved and thankful that it's not my heart.


                • #9
                  How about

                  Hi TPD,

                  Although you didn't mention it.. are you finding that your head spins and dizzyness is caused when you roll over in bed (in a dark room) or turn your head suddenly?
                  Nausea will usually accompany this because the room is not supposed to spin when you can't see

                  The Pard


                  • #10
                    The Pard,

                    I don't really associate the dizziness with sudden head turns or rolling over in bed. The dizziness just seems to sometimes accompany the nausea when I start feeling these little spells come on. I can be sitting or laying perfectly still and these symptoms just crop up.