In the entry for a stomach is a valve, and it is a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES shuts when food passes through it. If the LES doesn’t close all of the ways or if it opens too frequently, acid reflux produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus.
This can cause symptoms such as burning chest distress called heartburn.
When acid reflux symptoms occur more than twice per week, you may have acid reflux disease, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
What Causes Acid Reflux Disease?
One frequent cause of acid reflux disease is a stomach abnormality called a hiatal hernia.
This occurs when the upper area of the stomach and LES move over the diaphragm, a muscle that separates your stomach from your torso.
Normally, the diaphragm helps keep acid in our stomach. But if you have a hiatal hernia, acid can move into your esophagus and lead to symptoms of acid reflux disease.
These are other frequent risk factors for acid reflux disease:
- Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal
- Being overweight or obese
- Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist
- Snacking close to bedtime
- Eating certain foods, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, onions, garlic, or hot or greasy foods
- Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
- Being Pregnant
- Taking aspirin, aspirin, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications
What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease?
Frequent symptoms of acid reflux are:
Heartburn: a burning pain or discomfort that may move from the stomach to your abdomen or chest, or perhaps up into your throat
Regurgitation: a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your mouth or throat
Additional symptoms of acid reflux disease include:
- Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
- Dysphagia — the feeling of food being stuck on your throat
- Hiccups that don’t let up
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat
How Is Acid Reflux Disease Diagnosed?
It is time to see your doctor when you have acid reflux symptoms two or more times weekly or if medications don’t bring lasting relief.
Symptoms such as heartburn are the secret to the identification of acid reflux disease, especially if lifestyle changes, antacids, or acid-blocking medications help alleviate these symptoms.
If these steps do not help or if you’ve got frequent or severe symptoms, your doctor may order tests to confirm a diagnosis and check for other issues.
You may need a couple of tests such as these:
- Barium swallow (esophagram) can assess for ulcers or a portion of the esophagus. You first swallow a solution to help structures show up within an X-ray.
- Esophageal manometry can assess the movement and function of the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter.
- PH monitoring can assess for acid in your esophagus. The doctor inserts a device in your esophagus and leaves it in position for 1 to 2 days to measure the quantity of acid in your esophagus.
- Endoscopy can check for issues on your esophagus or stomach. This test involves inserting a long, flexible, lighted tube with a camera down your throat.
First, the doctor will spray on the back of your throat with anesthetic and provide you a sedative to make you more comfortable.
- A biopsy may be obtained during endoscopy to check samples of tissue under a microscope for infection or abnormalities.
Can Acid Reflux Disease Be Treated With Diet and Lifestyle Changes?
One of the best techniques to treat acid reflux disease is to prevent the foods and drinks that trigger symptoms. Below are some other Actions you can consider:
- Eat smaller meals more often throughout the day and modify the sorts of foods you are eating.
- Quit smoking.
- Put blocks under the head of the mattress to lift it at least 4 inches to 6 inches.
- Eat at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down.
- Try sleeping in a seat for daytime naps.
- Do not wear tight clothes or tight straps.
- If you are overweight or obese, take steps to lose weight with exercise and diet changes.
- Also, ask your doctor whether any medicine could be triggering your heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease.
Can Acid Reflux Disease Be Treated With Medications?
In many cases, lifestyle changes together with over-the-counter medications are all you have to control the symptoms of acid reflux disease.
Antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Riopan, can neutralize the acid in the stomach. But they may cause constipation or diarrhea, especially if you overuse them.
It is ideal to use antacids that contain both magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide. When combined, they may help counteract these gastrointestinal side effects.
If antacids do not help, your doctor may try other medications. Some need a prescription. Your doctor may suggest more than 1 type or suggest you try a mix of medications such as these:
- Foaming agents (Gaviscon) coat your stomach to prevent reflux.
- H2 blockers (Pepcid, Tagamet) reduce acid production.
- Proton pump inhibitors (Aciphex, Nexium, Prilosec OTC, Prevacid, Protonix) also reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes.
- Prokinetics (Reglan, Urecholine) can help strengthen the LES, empty your stomach faster, and reduce acid reflux.
Do not combine more than 1 type of antacid or alternative medications without your doctor’s advice.
Is Acid Reflux Disease Ever Treated With Surgery?
If medications don’t completely solve outward symptoms of acid reflux disease and the symptoms are severely interfering with your daily life, your doctor may recommend an operation.
There are two types of surgical treatment used to relieve symptoms of GERD if the daily use of medication is not effective.
The recently approved procedure involves surgically placing a ring known as a LINX device around the surface of the lower end of the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.
The ring consists of magnetic titanium beads held together by titanium wires. In 1 study, patients were able to stop taking medicine or reduce the amount they took.
You shouldn’t get the LINX apparatus if you’re allergic to certain compounds, and once you have a LINX apparatus you should not receive any type of MRI test.
Another surgical procedure called fundoplication can help prevent further acid reflux. It creates an artificial valve using the peak of your stomach.
The procedure involves:
Wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the
LES to strengthen it, stop acid reflux, and fix a hiatal hernia.
Surgeons perform this process through either an open incision in the abdomen or chest or with a lighted tube inserted through a tiny incision in the abdomen.
These processes are done only as a last resort for treating acid reflux disease after medical therapy has turned out to be inadequate.
Ask your friends and loved ones for support. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, consider joining a support group or seeking counseling. Believe in your ability to take control of the pain…
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