What is Acid Reflux or heartburn?

Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux is a condition in which digestive acids from the stomach travel back up the esophagus to reach your mouth. The esophagus is the food pipe connecting your mouth to the stomach. When acid travels up this connecting pipe it can cause a burning or painful sensation in the chest, and this is described as heartburn. Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux. If the problem of acid reflux occurs frequently, it is categorized as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

Symptoms of acid reflux

Symptoms of acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD can include the following:

  • Burning sensation in the chest that tends to surface after meals.
  • Regurgitation of food or liquids
  • Symptoms usually worsen at night or when lying down.
  • Acidic and bitter taste in the mouth
  • Irritation of the throat and difficulty swallowing

Individuals who suffer from GERD, which includes acid reflux symptoms occurring with a frequency of twice a week, are also more likely to suffer from a chronic cough and sleep impairment.

Causes

Acid reflux and associated symptoms like heartburn occur as a result of digestive acids travelling up the food pipe. Under normal circumstances, food and liquids can only travel down the pipe as a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter prevents the stomach contents from escaping back up. This muscle or sphincter can weaken for several reasons, resulting in acid reflux or GERD. Some causes and risk factors include:

  • Increased abdominal pressure such as during pregnancy or a result of obesity.
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • High intake of acidic beverages
  • Overeating
  • Eating late-night meals shortly before sleep.
  • High intake of fatty or fried foods
  • Certain medications for other conditions

Tests

In most cases, your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis based on the reported symptoms and a physical examination. However, to confirm this and make a more accurate diagnosis, certain tests may be recommended. These include:

  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy and biopsy – With an endoscopy, your doctor will be able to identify any abnormalities or inflammation in the esophagus and if necessary, the procedure can also be used to conduct a biopsy or collect tissue samples.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) X-Rays – X-rays can be used to examine the silhouette or shape of the esophagus, stomach and upper intestine and can reveal any narrowing of the esophagus or presence of hernia that could be causing the problem.
  • Ambulatory acid probe tests – A tiny monitoring device is placed in the esophagus to monitor acidity or pH levels.
  • Esophageal manometry – This is a test that tracks rhythmic muscle contractions of the esophagus when food is consumed. It also helps to measure esophageal muscle coordination and force.

Treatment of acid reflux

Lifestyle and dietary modifications from the first line of treatment, but you may also need to use over-the-counter or prescription medications to get relief from symptoms. These can include:

  • Antacids provide quick relief from acid reflux but will not treat the underlying causes or heal damage to the esophagus resulting from acid reflux.
  • H-2-Receptor Blockers are not as fast-acting as antacids, but they can decrease acid production and offer longer relief.
  • Proton pump inhibitors are stronger medications than H-2-receptor blockers, reducing acid production for a longer period to allow healing of damaged esophageal tissue.
  • Some prescription medications can also relieve acid reflux symptoms by strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter and reducing the frequency of relaxations.

In severe cases, medications alone may not provide relief. Moreover, long term use of medications is associated with a variety of side effects. In such situations, surgical treatments may be recommended and include:

  • Fundoplication is a minimally invasive procedure in which the lower esophageal sphincter is tightened by wrapping the top of the stomach around it.
  • Transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF) is a modern procedure, performed via endoscopy and requires no surgical incisions. The procedure is used to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter with polypropylene fasteners.
  • LINX device is an effective treatment for GERD or acid reflux and is implanted with minimally invasive surgery. The device comprises a band of tiny magnetic beads that are wrapped around the esophageal junction. Their strength is just enough to prevent leakage of stomach acids back up, but weak enough to allow food to enter the stomach.
  • Bard EndoCinch System is another endoscopic procedure in which the lower esophageal sphincter is strengthened, but it is not a common practice.

Why Gleneagles Global Hospital for Treatment Acid Reflux or GERD?

If you’re looking for skilled gastroenterologists