What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is a common ailment that leaves you with a burning pain in your lower chest area, otherwise known as heartburn. This happens when stomach acid flows back into your esophagus, generally after eating. Acid reflux can usually be remedied with over the counter medicine, but if you are experiencing more severe symptoms; it may require a visit to your doctor.
What are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?
Symptoms can include the following:
- Heartburn: A burning sensation in your abdomen or chest
- A feeling that food is stuck in your throat when trying to swallow or “Dysphagia”
- Regurgitation: A bitter-tasting acid and possibly food that has come back up from your stomach into your mouth
What are the Causes of Acid Reflux?
Acid Reflux is caused when hydrochloric acid from the stomach flows up into the food pipe, causing discomfort. The lining of your stomach is protected from this acid that breaks down your food, but the esophagus is not. There is a muscle called the gastroesophageal sphincter that stops food from coming back up through your throat, however when this valve fails and stomach acid is let back through, you then feel the symptoms of acid reflux like heartburn. You can also experience acid reflux if your dietary habits contain too much caffeine or alcohol or if you are eating huge meals.
When to see a Doctor forAcid Relux?
You should see the doctor if you are experiencing the following:
- Symptoms continue despite taking over the counter medicine
- You experience Acid Reflux more than twice a week
- Unknown weight loss
- Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
- Progressive difficulty swallowing or food lodging in esophagus
What are the Complications of Acid Reflux?
If you are experiencing Acid Reflux often and it is interfering with your day to day or is happening more than twice a week, you may well have GERD, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. GERD will cause acid reflux often, and the stomach acid that touches your esophagus can cause tissue damage. This can also increase the risk of esophageal cancer. GERD can be treated with prescription medicines, surgery, and other procedures.
How is Acid Reflux Diagnosed?
If you have frequent acid reflux, your doctor may recommend you:
- Have an endoscopy
- Have a biopsy on your esophagus tissue
- A barium swallow x-ray
- Esophageal pH monitoring to check for acid present in the esophagus
- Esophageal manometry
What is the Treatment for Acid Reflux?
- Over the counter medications such as antacids or antihistamine acid blockers
- Prescription medications such as proton pump blockers
- For severe cases surgery such as Fundoplication
How do I Prevent Acid Reflux?
You can prevent acid reflux by keeping your weight under control, cutting down eating fatty foods and spicy foods, not smoking, not eating overly large meals, or eating soon before lying down. Being overweight is often a big contributing factor acid reflux, as obesity is a common risk factor associated with it. If you do suffer from obesity and acid reflux, you can dramatically improve those reflux symptoms with weight loss.
If you feel like you are suffering from acid reflux on a regular basis and medications aren’t controlling your symptoms, please don't hesitate to contact us and set up an appointment with Dr. Williams today.