Acid reflux is also known as the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Some people simply describe it as heartburn because of the burning effect of the condition experienced by the patient. Essentially, acid reflux is a disorder in which the acid contents in the stomach back up into the esophagus. The acidic nature of the contents results in pain and inflammation in the lower part of the esophagus.
Before finding the cure, it is important to first understand the acid reflux causes. Acid reflux is caused by poor functioning of lower esophageal sphincter. In normal condition, the lower esophageal sphincter is tightly closed. But in the case of an acid reflux patient, the lower esophageal sphincter is open, allowing stomach acids reflux. There are a few factors that can cause such opening. These factors include taking very heavy meals, lying down soon after eating (within two hours), use of certain drugs like diazepam, meperidine, morphine, prostaglandins, calcium channel blockers, nitrate heart medications and others.
One of the most common symptoms of acid reflux disease is a burning sensation in the chest (aka heartburn) that takes place after eating. While heartburn remains the main symptom of acid reflux, a number of related symptoms are reported. These include difficulty in swallowing, cramping, sore throat, hoarseness, pain below the breastbone, spitting up at night, unusually high salivation, coughing, bad breath, shortness of breath, and vomiting. The symptoms may appear when one is in lying position, especially after a meal. The heartburn feeling can also spread to jaw, neck, arms, and back. Reflux of contents from the stomach into the mouth is another common acid reflux symptom, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. If acid reflux happens frequently, it can be threatening to health because it may lead to reflux esophagitis, esophageal narrowing, esophageal ulcer, and Barrett’s syndrome. Barrett’s syndrome is an alteration in the lining of the esophagus and this can eventually lead to esophageal cancer.
Acid reflux can strike anyone regardless of his or her age or sex. However, it is most commonly found in people who are overweight. People suffering from hiatal hernia, recurring vomiting, or scleroderma (hardening of skin and connective tissue) are also prompt to acid reflux. For women, acid reflux can also happen due to pregnancy.
The most common treatment is to take antacids after meals and at bedtime. You can buy antacids easily from the nearest pharmacy. Lifestyle changes is also important. For example, do not lie down immediately after a meal. Avoid fast food and other fatty foods, soda drinks, coffee and alcohol as they can aggravate acid reflux. If over-the-counter medicine cannot relieve your acid reflux symptom, you may have to turn to a doctor, who may give you drugs like H2 blocker, proton pump inhibitors etc. In severe cases, other treatment such as a surgery may be necessary.
Author: Gloria Fanz -