Acid Reflux Disease Symptoms, Causes, Tests, And Treatments

Acid reflux can be aggravated by many different things, including lifestyle, medication, diet , pregnancy , weight gain, and certain medical conditions. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the esophagus becomes irritated or inflamed because of acid backing up from the stomach. The esophagus or food pipe is the tube stretching from the throat to the stomach. When food is swallowed, it travels down the esophagus. If GERD is severe and unresponsive to medical treatment, a surgical intervention known as fundoplication may be needed. Avoiding foods and beverages that can weaken the LES is often recommended. These foods include chocolate , peppermint, fatty foods, coffee, and alcoholic beverages. Foods and beverages that can irritate a damaged esophageal lining, such as citrus fruits and juices, tomato products, and pepper, should also be avoided if they cause symptoms.

Acid reflux creates a burning pain in the lower chest area, often after eating. Antacids provide rapid but short-term relief by reducing the acidity of the stomach contents. A small number of people with GERD may need surgery because of severe reflux and poor response to medical treatment. However, surgery should not be considered until all other measures have been tried. Fundoplication is a surgical procedure that increases pressure in the lower esophagus. Endoscopic procedures that involve making the LES function better or using electrodes to promote scarring of the LES are newer options in treatment.

For chronic reflux and heartburn, the doctor may recommend medications to reduce acid in the stomach. These medicines include H2 blockers, which inhibit acid secretion in the stomach. H2 blockers include: cimetidine ( Tagamet ), famotidine ( Pepcid ), nizatidine ( Axid ), and ranitidine ( Zantac ). These liquid and tablet formulations are called antacids, and there are dozens of brands available, all with similar effectiveness. They may not work for everyone, and any need for regular use should be discussed with a doctor.

In normal digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and closes to prevent food and acidic stomach juices from flowing back into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES is weak or relaxes inappropriately, allowing the stomach’s contents to flow up into the esophagus. Exact figures vary, but diseases resulting from acid reflux are the most common gut complaint seen by hospital departments in the United States. Treatment of acid reflux includes over-the-counter (OTC) medications including antacids and H2-blockers; prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors, coating agents, and promotility agents; and in severe cases, surgery.

These procedures are done only as a last resort for treating acid reflux disease after medical treatment has proven to be inadequate. Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation that occurs in the esophagus and is felt behind the breastbone area. It tends to get worse when lying down or bending over. It can last for several hours and often sell worsens after eating food. For patients in whom diagnosis is difficult, doctors may measure the acid levels inside the esophagus through pH testing. Testing pH monitors the acidity level of the esophagus and symptoms during meals, activity, and sleep Newer techniques of long-term pH monitoring are improving diagnostic capability in this area.

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