Nearly all of us will experience heartburn, or acid reflux, at one time or another.
This condition occurs when the muscle at the base of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES, does not close properly for one reason or another. This allows stomach acid and food to come up from the stomach into the esophagus, throat and mouth. The result is a painful burning sensation, and occasionally a sour taste in the mouth.
For occasional heartburn, over the counter antacids are generally sufficient to keep the painful symptoms at bay. However, if you experience frequent heartburn, you may be suffering from acid reflux syndrome, or GERD.
Should you see a Doctor?
Acid reflux syndrome is a potentially serious condition that you should have checked out by your doctor. Indications that you might have acid reflux syndrome include experiencing heartburn symptoms two or more times each week, heartburn symptoms worsening or keeping you up at night, and symptoms that persist even after taking over the counter medications. If you have asthma, you may notice these symptoms getting more severe as well. Sometimes frequent heartburn, or acid reflux syndrome, can affect your throat, causing excessive coughing or hoarseness. You can even have symptoms like weight loss or decreased appetite. Any of these symptoms could mean that you are suffering from acid reflux syndrome, and a trip to your doctor is warranted.
While acid reflux syndrome in itself is not necessarily a serious illness, and certainly not life threatening, the symptoms can eventually cause damage to the esophagus. If the damage goes unchecked and becomes severe enough, it could lead to an increased risk of esophageal cancer. This is why it is so important for you to see your doctor if you suspect that you have acid reflux syndrome. Your doctor can determine if you have experienced any damage to the lining of your esophagus and take the appropriate measures to ensure that the damage heals properly. This process usually involves taking a prescription medication that will keep the acid at bay, giving your esophagus time to heal itself. These medications can also do much to reduce your painful symptoms, offering you a more comfortable way of life once again.
Your doctor may also recommend certain lifestyle changes to help keep your acid reflux syndrome in check. These might include avoiding foods that cause the symptoms, eating smaller, more frequent meals, losing weight and quitting smoking. It is not unusual for a few simple lifestyle modifications to be sufficient in reducing your symptoms of acid reflux syndrome. This will allow you to stop taking medication, and enjoy a healthier, more symptom-free way of life.
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