Understanding Acid Reflux Disease
Most people have experienced the symptoms of acid reflux at some point during their lives, often after a particularly large or rich meal. The sensation of heartburn can be intense, but goes away after a while.
While occasional acid reflux is normal, symptoms occurring twice a week or more may be indicative of acid reflux disease. But what is acid reflux disease and how is it treated?
Our stomachs produce a powerful acid to break down foods for digestion. A muscle at the bottom of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) allows food and liquid into the stomach while keeping acid out of the esophagus.
Acid reflux can happen in people who do not have acid reflux disease. People with acid reflux disease, also known as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), experience symptoms of acid reflux two or more times per week.
GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not work as it should; it either relaxes abnormally or is weakened. As a result, stomach acid and bile are able to back up into the esophagus, commonly causing pain and discomfort known as heartburn.
You may have heard the terms heartburn and acid reflux used interchangeably. Heartburn is technically the symptom of GERD. You may feel it as a burning sensation in the middle of your chest.
Symptoms of GERD:
- Persistent dry cough
- Sensation of a lump in the throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of sour liquid
You may experience one or several of these symptoms.
Risk Factors for GERD
There are a number of risk factors for developing GERD. Fortunately, many of them can be avoided by changing some lifestyle habits.
- Eating large meals
- Eating fatty foods
- Lying down shortly after meals
- Alcohol consumption
- Excess caffeine consumption
- Having a hiatus hernia
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Use of certain medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and certain antidepressants
In many cases, you can improve and control your symptoms by being proactive. Learn what foods trigger GERD symptoms and change your diet. Reduce the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume, and quit smoking if you are a smoker. Losing excess pounds and maintaining a healthy weight may also help improve symptoms.
If you’ve tried everything and no self-care option seems to help reduce your symptoms, then it may be time to see your doctor.
Complications from Acid Reflux
The acid our stomachs produce is powerful, and repeated exposure can cause permanent damage to the esophagus. Left untreated, acid reflux may lead to complications.
- Esophagitis (inflammation of esophagus)
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Esophageal narrowing/stricture
If you think you may have acid reflux disease, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor to prevent long-term damage.
It’s normal for everyone to experience acid reflux at some point during their lives. However, you may want to consider seeking medical attention if you experience symptoms of acid reflux twice or more per week.
Treatments For Acid Reflux Include:
- Medication (prescription and over-the-counter)
- Diet and avoiding acidic trigger foods
- Giving up smoking
- Drinking less alcohol
- Reducing caffeine consumption
- Raising the head of your bed so that you lay at an angle, which may help reduce acid and bile backflow overnight
Finding the right combination of treatments for you may take some trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if one experiment doesn’t work! Be patient and keep trying, and you’ll find the right fit to control your symptoms.
Heartburn or Heart Attack?
Both heartburn and heart attack cause pain in the center of the chest, sometimes making it difficult to differentiate between the two.
If you are experiencing intense chest pain coupled with other symptoms, such as arm or jaw pain or shortness of breath, then seek medical attention immediately.
Acid Reflux Disease Treatment at Florida Medical Clinic
The symptoms of GERD can make enjoying a meal difficult, and it can also make a day at work or school feel incredibly long. But you don’t have to suffer!
The Florida Medical Clinic Gastroenterology Department is here to help you feel relief. Our team is well-experienced with diagnosing and treating GERD and more.
Make an appointment today. Together, we’ll help you control and improve your symptoms of acid reflux disease.