Symptoms of acid reflux disease are very specific and easy to detect.
Acid reflux disease is also known as Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. It is very common nowadays. A lot of people have actually been coming and going in the hospitals with this very condition. But do we really know what GERD is? What are some instances that would cause the onset of symptoms of acid reflux? In this article, we would be looking onto the disease that is GERD. We would also be discussing its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention methods. Almost anybody could get acid reflux disease so I advise you to kindly read on. You never know when this article might become useful.
Acid Reflux Disease Causes
Acid reflux disease could be due to a variety of things. The finger is usually pointed into these acid reflux disease causes:
- An abnormality in the lower esophageal sphincter. This would mean that if the sphincter does not close fully, food, acid and other gastric contents could go up into the esophagus.
- Hiatal hernia is a circumstance where the stomach, or part of the stomach, moves up and above the diaphragm. The diaphragm is like a muscle wall the separates the chest cavity from the rest of the gastrointestinal system. It also acts to keep the gastric contents down. So, when the stomach is above the diaphragm, there would be one less barrier for the gastric contents to spill into your esophagus.
- Pregnancy can cause GERD because the fetus increases pressure in the abdomen, thus pushing your gastric contents up.
- Scleroderma is also viewed as a cause of GERD because one of its symptoms is heartburn. This is due to the fact that the esophagus is usually affected by the disease.
- Obesity, smoking and alcohol intake are also viewed as probable acid reflux disease causes.
Acid Reflux in a Nutshell
Acid reflux is basically the regurgitation of gastric contents into you upper GI tract. Hydrochloric acid is a major component of these gastric contents. Once HCl reaches your esophagus, this would irritate the esophageal lining and thus causing symptoms of acid reflux to appear.
Symptoms of acid reflux can be classified in two ways. We will be discussing that in the next paragraph.
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
As mentioned earlier, there are two ways to classify symptoms of acid reflux: complicated and uncomplicated.
Uncomplicated GERD is easily treatable and the symptoms would include the following:
Complicated symptoms of GERD would indicate a serious condition. It is actually the exacerbation of the uncomplicated symptoms. It would involve the following:
- Barrett’s Esophagus
- Inflammation of the throat (See: Throat cancer symptoms)
- Asthma and cough
Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease
Diagnosing acid reflux disease is pretty simple. Most doctors would just usually base on the symptoms since they are very specific. However, they would need laboratory tests and other procedures to back up their diagnosis. Enumerated here would be some of the most common diagnostic procedures performed in patients with acid reflux disease.
- Endoscopy is one of the best procedures that would most definitely confirm GERD. With endoscopy, a fiber optic probe with a camera attached at the tip is inserted through the mouth. This would help your doctor to visualize your esophagus and your stomach (See: Stomach cancer symptoms). Ulcers and perforations would be very visible here.
- Barium swallow is another test that is performed in people suspected of GERD. However, the downside of barium swallow is that it could not detect the early stages of GERD. People in the early stages of GERD do not have ulcers in the esophagus yet, therefore this procedure is useless to them.
- Esophageal Acid Testing is a very accurate way to diagnose GERD. What happens here is that a catheter with an acid sensor at the tip is inserted into the esophagus via the nostril. The other end of the catheter is attached to a recorder. Every time gastric contents go up the esophagus, the sensor would send data back to the recorder. The patient is placed on this catheter for 24 hours so that doctors would have a good idea on how often reflux happens.
Acid Reflux Treatments
People undergoing treatment for acid reflux would have to do some major lifestyle changes. For one thing, they have to stop smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages and coffee. Stress is also a major factor. When a person is stressed, studies show that the HCl production in the stomach is increased. Although stress could never be avoided, knowing how to handle it would be of great help.
In GERD, stomach distention should be avoided at all costs to minimize discomfort. Taking small, frequent meals would certainly eliminate this problem.Spicy and fatty food aggravates symptoms of acid reflux, and should therefore be avoided. Oddly enough, chewing gum has been found to have positive effects on patients with GERD. It is worth a try.
Medication therapy would include antacids, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors. All these drugs, in one way or another, affect the production of hydrochloric acid in your stomach. When HCl is minimized, damage to your gastric lining is also minimized.
If the symptoms of acid reflux could no longer be controlled by those mentioned above, or have already caused extensive damage, most patients would be advised to undergo surgery. The procedure is called fundoplication. If hiatal hernia is the cause of the condition, the fundus of the stomach would be pulled and repositioned under the diaphragm. The diaphragm would then be tightened to prevent further reflux.
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