Acid Reflux Disease Symptoms, Causes, Tests, and Treatments

A ring of muscle at the stomach beginning is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  The ring closes as soon as food passes through it.  The acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus if LES doesn’t close. This can cause a burning chest discomfort called heartburn. If you feel that you may have acid reflux disease, […]
GERD Treatment & Symptoms | Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
A ring of muscle at the stomach beginning is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  The ring closes as soon as food passes through it.  The acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus if LES doesn’t close. This can cause a burning chest discomfort called heartburn. If you feel that you may have acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What Causes Acid Reflux Disease?

Hiatal hernia is a common cause of reflux disease. This occurs when the upper part of the stomach and LES move above the diaphragm, a muscle that separates your stomach from your chest. The diaphragm helps keep acid in our stomach. If you have a hiatal hernia, acid can move up into your esophagus and cause symptoms of acid reflux disease.

These are other common 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, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
  • Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications
What are the Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

What Are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease?

Common symptoms of acid reflux are:

  • Heartburn: a burning pain or discomfort that may move from your stomach to your abdomen or chest, or even up into your throat
  • Regurgitation: a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth

Other symptoms of acid reflux disease include:

  • Bloating
  • Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
  • Burping
  • Dysphagia — the sensation of food being stuck in your throat
  • Hiccups that don’t let up
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat

How Is Acid Reflux Disease Diagnosed?

If you have acid reflux symptoms for more than two or more times a week or if medications don’t bring lasting relief seek medical attention.

If you have severe symptoms the following tests are necessary;

  • Barium swallow (esophagram) can check for ulcers or a narrowing of the esophagus. You first swallow a solution to help structures show up on an X-ray.
  • Esophageal manometry can check the function and movement of the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter.
  • pH monitoring can check for acid in your esophagus. The doctor inserts a device into your esophagus and leaves it in place for 1 to 2 days to measure the amount of acid in your esophagus.
  • Endoscopy can check for problems in your esophagus or stomach. This test involves inserting a long, flexible, lighted tube with a camera down your throat. First, the doctor will spray the back of your throat with anesthetic and give you a sedative to make you more comfortable.
  • A biopsy may be taken 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?

To entirely get rid of acid reflux its advisable to avoid the foods and beverages that trigger symptoms. Steps you should take are as follows;

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day and modify the types of foods you are eating.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Put blocks under the head of your bed to raise it at least 4 inches to 6 inches.
  • Eat at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down.
  • Try sleeping in a chair for daytime naps.
  • Don’t wear tight clothes or tight belts.
  • If you’re overweight or obese, take steps to lose weight with exercise and diet changes.
  • Also, ask your doctor whether any medication could be triggering your heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease.

 

Can Acid Reflux Disease Be Treated With Medications?

Lifestyle changes combined with over-the-counter medications are all you need to control the symptoms of acid reflux disease.

Antacids, such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, or Riopan, can neutralize the acid from your stomach. But they may cause diarrhea or constipation, especially if you overuse them. It’s best to use antacids that contain both magnesium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide. When combined, they may help counteract these gastrointestinal side effects.

Antiacids may not work.  The doctor may give you prescriptions prescription or suggest you try a combination of medications such as these:

  • Foaming agents (Gaviscon) coat your stomach to prevent reflux.
  • H2 blockers (Pepcid, Tagamet) decrease acid production.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (Aciphex, Nexium, Prilosec, 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.

Don’t combine more than one type of antacid or other medications without your doctor’s guidance.

Is Acid Reflux Disease Ever Treated With Surgery?

Surgery is recommended in cases where medications don’t help get rid of the symptoms. There are two types of surgical treatment used to relieve symptoms of GERD if daily use of medication isn’t effective.

The most recently approved procedure involves surgically placing a ring known as a LINX device around the outside 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. The device helps reflux by preventing stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. In one study, patients were able to stop taking medicine or cut down the amount they took. You shouldn’t get the LINX device if you’re allergic to certain metals, and once you have a LINX device you shouldn’t get any type of MRI test.

Another surgical procedure called fundoplication can help prevent further acid reflux. It creates an artificial valve using the top of your stomach. The procedure involves wrapping the upper part of the stomach around the LES to strengthen it, prevent acid reflux, and repair a hiatal hernia. Surgeons perform this procedure through either an open incision in the abdomen or chest or with a lighted tube inserted through a tiny incision in the abdomen.

The following procedure are only applied as the last result when everything doesn’t work out.

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