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Acid Reflux Disease

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Overview of Acid Reflux

Acid reflux disease is medically coined as Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). It is a condition wherein the stomach acid gurgles up to the esophagus. This results in terrible discomfort in the body like burning of stomach and chest, vomiting, etc.

Causes of Acid Reflux

Faulty LES: The Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) is present at the junction where the esophagus joins the stomach. It prevents the digestive juices produced inside the stomach to move into the esophagus and it closes after food passes to stomach. If too much pressure is exerted on this muscle, it stops functioning normally and is unable to block the acids.

Hiatal Hernia: It’s a condition wherein the upper portion of the stomach that joins the esophagus moves towards the chest through the hiatus (opening in the diaphragm). It paves the way for the acids to rise to esophagus very easily.

Pregnancy: During the third trimester the baby grows considerably big enough to put pressure on the stomach which in turn presses the LES. Women become prone to acidity during this time.

Peptic Ulcers: Ulcers inside stomach hamper the digestion process, which leads to piling of digestive enzymes inside the body and they rise up to the esophagus.

Eating Habits, Medicines and Lifestyle: Eating large meals, lack of exercise, consuming too many beverages, excessive smoking and drinking are responsible for acid reflux disease. Pain killers, NSAIDs, aspirin, and calcium based tablets also cause acidity.

Symptoms and Health Risks

  • Problems in digestion give rise to stomach pain.
  • When acid rises up, it can also cause chest pain
  • Terrible burning sensation inside stomach (heatburn) and chest
  • Bloating, vomiting, dizziness, and nausea
  • Regurgitation occurs in which bitter tasting stomach content and sour acids come to throat and mouth
  • Hiccups and incessant burping due to indigestion
  • Difficulty in swallowing food known as dysphagia
  • Anemia, weight loss and black stool

Diagnostic procedures

Your doctors can confirm that you are having acid reflux by listening to the symptoms you tell him/her during the checkup. Diagnostic tests are performed only under chronic condition wherein you have stomach ulcers, asthma, difficulty in swallowing food or experiencing black stool and weight loss.

Endoscopy: It is performed to diagnose any kind of abnormality in the esophagus as well as the stomach with the help of an endoscope. Barrett's esophagus (cancer in esophagus) can be diagnosed through endoscopy.

Barium X-ray: To get a clear view of the structure of the esophagus, the patient is asked to swallow barium followed by X-ray.

Esophageal Manometry:  Your nose is numbed and a tube is passed through the nose that reaches the esophagus, till the stomach. It can detect abnormality in the esophagus and the sphincter as well.

Acid Test with pH: 24-hour esophageal pH test is performed with the help of a catheter passed through the nose. Every time acid rises up, the sensor attached to the end of the catheter is stimulated and the frequency is noted down.

Treatment for Acid Reflux Disease

Lifestyle modifications and GERD diet:  You need to bring about changes in your eating habits. Your doctor will recommend a GERD diet. It eliminates acid causing foods and substitutes with foods rich in proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins. Eat small meals at an interval of 2-3 hours, exercise regularly and stay away from smoking, drinking, etc.

Medicines: Antacids are still the common medicine for getting instant relief from acidity. However for long term relief doctors prescribe histamine (H2) antagonists because histamines trigger acid production in stomach. They are available as different combinations like cimetidine, nizatidine, famotidine and ranitidine.

Omeprazole Treatment aka Proton Pump Inhibitors: They are the most effective group of medicine used for treating acid reflux disease. It completely blocks secretion of stomach acids by acting directly on the cells.

Acid Reflux Surgery: It’s the last option of treatment for GERD. The surgery is known as fundoplication is performed to increase the pressure and strengthen the sphincter (LES) so that it gets back to normal function.

When to consult a doctor

Consult your doctor whenever you observe the symptoms we have mentioned in the aforementioned content. Your doctor will further take care of what to do next.

Acid reflux is not a big problem to worry about. It can be treated completely with medicines and by incorporating healthy eating habits.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 03, 2015