Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach contents and acid flow into your lower esophagus -- the tube leading from your throat to your stomach. Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux, but other symptoms can also occur with this condition, including a dry cough, chest pain and a recurrent sore throat. Constant tiredness associated with acid reflux could be an indication of a complication or a medication side effect. Such symptoms should prompt a visit to your doctor.
Persistent or severe acid reflux that disrupts your life or damages the esophagus is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. According to a May 2011 review in the "World Journal of Gastroenterology," erosive esophagitis -- inflammation and ulcers in the lower esophagus -- is one of the most common complications of GERD. Chronic bleeding from esophageal ulcers can lead to anemia, which commonly causes persistent tiredness. Anemia is considered a warning sign of complicated GERD.
Medication Side Effects
People with acid reflux often take medications to control their symptoms. Many use over-the-counter drugs -- histamine blockers or proton pump inhibitors -- without consulting their health care providers. Histamine blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), famotidine (Pepcid) and nizatidine (Axid), can sometimes cause fatigue.
Proton pump inhibitors, including lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Zegerid, Prilosec), may cause tiredness in some users. These medications also reduce stomach acid production so well that your body cannot efficiently absorb iron and vitamin B-12 from your food. Nutritional deficiencies related to proton pump inhibitor use may eventually lead to anemia and fatigue. If you're taking medication for acid reflux symptoms, see your doctor to make sure you are not experiencing side effects.
Constant daytime tiredness sometimes stems from inadequate sleep at night. For people with acid reflux, poor sleep may be caused by waking up repeatedly during the night due to heartburn pain or a reflux-induced cough. Medications for acid reflux also sometimes cause insomnia.
Constant fatigue could be associated with acid reflux through a variety of mechanisms. But fatigue can also be caused by a number of conditions that have nothing to do with acid reflux, such as depression, heart disease, thyroid disease, liver or kidney failure, cancer, or an autoimmune disorder such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. If you are constantly tired -- whether you have acid reflux or not -- see your doctor for a thorough examination and medical evaluation.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Family Physician: Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: Association Between Body Mass Index and Erosive Esophagitis: A Meta-Analysis
- The New England Journal of Medicine: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology: Proton Pump Inhibitors Therapy and Anemia: A Retrospective Cohort Study
- Gastroenterology: American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement on the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- Journal of Gastorintestinal and Liver Disease: Improvement of Gastroesophageal Reflux in Patients With Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Treated With Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
- American Journal of Gastroenterology: Updated Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Heartburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER), and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)