Acid Reflux – medical term – Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition where acid comes back upward from your stomach into your esophagus. It causes a similar sensation to heartburn, or it may feel like you have something stuck in your throat. This effect is caused by the esophageal sphincter not functioning correctly. The esophageal sphincter consists of a valve and is located at the entrance to the stomach – basically, it is a muscle ring known as LES (or the “lower esophageal sphincter”).
Normally , the lower esophageal sphincter’s valve should close after food passes through it. However, in the case of acid reflux - the faulty valve either opens too often, or can fail to close altogether allowing stomach acid to move up and reach your esophagus, which causes some very unpleasant sensations, as mentioned above. In theses circumstances , you may well experience what is known as heartburn (a burning sensation and/or chest pain). Some people suffer from occasional acid reflux at some point during their life but if you experience signs or symptoms associated with acid reflux more than a couple of times a week, then it is possible that you many have GERD, and will require treatment, as discussed at the bottom of this page.
Other Health Problems Associated With Acid Reflux Disease
One of the most common problems associated with this disease is hiatal hernia, Reflux Esophagitis Hiatal Hernia. Hiatal Hernia is an abnormality of the stomach. This happens when the LES and the upper part of your stomach move right over the diaphragm (the diaphragm is the muscle which separates your upper body from your stomach). The diaphragm’s function is to keep the stomach acid within the stomach, but if you have an hiatal hernia, the acid can reach the esophagus and therefore cause the unpleasant symptoms associated with acid reflux disease.
There are many things that can cause acid reflux disease:
1. Obesity or overweight
2. Eating right before bedtime
3. Eating very large meals
6. Blood pressure medication , some muscle relaxers or ibuprofen
7. Drinking alcohol , espresso , tea or carbonated drinks
8. Certain foods really should also be avoided altogether, since they can also result in acid reflux disease, such as mint, tomatos, onions, citrus fruits, spicy or fatty foods.
Indicators Of Acid Reflux Disease
The main indicator associated with acid reflux disease is regular heartburn – the discomfort that moves from your stomach to your chest or abdomen, and sometimes, if severe, the burning sensation reaches your throat.
Another common indication of acid reflux is regurgitation: where a bitter or sour-tasting acid reaches your throat and mouth. Other signs may include:
1. Nausea and/or weight loss without a reason
2. Bloating and flatulence
3. Black or bloody stools, associated with bloody vomiting
4. Persistent hiccups, hoarseness, wheezing, chronic sore throat or dry cough
5. A condition called “Dysphagia”, which is the narrowing of the esophagus. This narrowing often creates the feeling that food has lodged in the throat.
How Can Acid Reflux Disease Be Diagnosed?
If you experience any of the indicators mentioned above more than a couple of times a week, or you have tried medicines such as over-the-counter antacids which help neutralize the effects of stomach acid but if they haven’t decreased your symptoms, then a visit to your medical doctor will be necessary to confirm a diagnosis and discuss available treatments.
However, if none of these preventative measures turn out to be useful, or if you experience severe and/or frequent symptoms of acid reflux disease, your health care provider may refer you to an ENT specialist to check whether you have a Hiatal Hernia. The specialist doctor will perform what is known as an endoscopy . An endoscope (a long, tube-like viewing instrument that contains a video camera is guided down the esophagus (gullet) and into the stomach to detect abnormalities.