More precisely known as the Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), acid reflux syndrome is commonly called acid reflux, reflux, and heartburn (which in fact is the burning effect of the condition experienced by the patient). Essentially, acid reflux is a disorder in which the acid contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus (hence the name reflux). The reflux causes pain and inflammation in the lower part of the esophagus.
Symptoms Of Acid Reflux Syndrome
While heartburn remains the main symptom of acid reflux, a number of associated symptoms are reported including difficulty in swallowing, cramping, sore throat, hoarseness, pain below the breastbone, spitting up at night, unusually high salivation, coughing, bad breath, shortness of breath, and vomiting. Symptoms may appear when one lies down after eating but feels relieved upon sitting up. Severe heartburn can spread to jaw, neck, arms, and back. Regurgitating stomach contents into the mouth is a common symptom among those suffering from heartburn. This leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Frequent occurrence of reflux is threatening to health because it leads to reflux esophagitis, esophageal narrowing, esophageal ulcer, and Barrett’s syndrome, which is a change in the lining of the esophagus that can lead to esophageal cancer.
Causes Of Acid Reflux Syndrome
The main cause of reflux of acid from the stomach is poor functioning of lower esophageal sphincter (LES). While it remains tightly closed in normal conditions, a number of factors can cause the LES to open and let stomach acids reflux. These factors include taking very heavy meals, lying down soon after eating (within two hours), and use of certain drugs like diazepam, meperidine, morphine, prostaglandins, calcium channel blockers, nitrate heart medications and others. In prone individuals, greasy food and certain food items like chocolate and peppermint can also relax the LES and increase the chances of reflux. Items like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine may aggravate the symptoms of acid reflux syndrome.
Victims Of Acid Reflux Syndrome
Acid reflux can strike anyone independent of his/her age or sex etc. However, it is most likely to affect people who are overweight, are suffering from hiatal hernia, recurring vomiting, or scleroderma (hardening of skin and connective tissue). Among women, reflux has also been reported to occur more frequently during pregnancy.
Diagnostic tests for acid reflux syndrome x-rays (taken after the patient takes a barium solution) and esophagoscopy in which a flexible viewing tube is inserted into the esophagus for a close examination. Biopsy may be taken during this test and tested for Barrett’s syndrome. Esophageal manometry (which measures pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter) and the Bernstein test (which measures the acidity in the esophagus) might also be carried out.
Treatment Of Acid Reflux Syndrome
In mild cases of reflux, taking antacids after meals and at bedtime suffices as treatment. Recommended position in lying down is raising the head of your bed so as to keep the acid flowing away from the esophagus during sleep. Avoiding fatty foods and drinks such as coffee and alcohol that can aggravate reflux goes together with treatment. Drugs for acid reflux syndrome include histamine receptor blockers that help to reduce stomach acids, proton-pump inhibitors (which are more effective at inhibiting acid production), prokinetic or motility drugs (that make the lower esophageal sphincter close more tightly), and omepraxole or lansoprazole, (which can quickly heal esophageal inflammation). In severe reflux conditions, when other treatment methods do not prove effective, surgery is performed. Figures show that less than 25% of reflux patients require surgery.