Acid Reflux Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Overview of Acid Reflux
Acid reflux disease in medical terms called 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 the burning of stomach and chest, vomiting, etc.
Causes of Acid Reflux
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 the stomach. If too much pressure is exerted on this muscle, it stops functioning normally and is unable to block the acids.
It is 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 the throat very easily.
During the third trimester, the baby grows considerably big enough to put pressure on the stomach, which then presses the LES. Women become prone to acidity during this time.
Ulcers inside the stomach hamper the digestion process, which leads to the piling of digestive enzymes inside the body, and they rise 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, it can also cause chest pain.
- The terrible burning sensation inside the stomach (heartburn) and chest
- Bloating, vomiting, dizziness, and nausea
- Regurgitation occurs in which bitter-tasting stomach content and harsh 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
Your doctors can confirm that you have acid reflux by listening to the symptoms you tell him/her during the checkup. Diagnostic tests are performed only under a chronic condition wherein you have stomach ulcers, asthma, difficulty in swallowing food, or experiencing black stool and weight loss.
It is performed to diagnose abnormalities in the esophagus and stomach with the help of an endoscope. Barrett's esophagus (cancer in the 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 an X-ray.
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, 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.
Antacids are still conventional medicine for getting instant relief from acidity. However, for long term relief, doctors prescribe histamine (H2) antagonists because histamines trigger acid production in the 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 the secretion of stomach acids by acting directly on the cells.
Acid Reflux Surgery:
It is 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
Please consult your doctor whenever you observe the symptoms we have mentioned in the content above. Your doctor will further take care of what to do next.
Acid reflux is not a big problem. It can be treated entirely with medicines and by incorporating healthy eating habits.