When stomach acid and food flow back up into the esophagus, a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) develops. When GER creates recurring symptoms or develops difficulties over time, it is considered gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a more serious and chronic condition.
Heartburn is a sign of acid reflux, which is why some people call it “heartburn” as heartburn or GERD (GER). Heartburn is not related to the heart, despite the name.
GER can progress to a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When a patient experiences acid reflux frequently, typically more than twice per week for several weeks at a time, a doctor will diagnose GERD.
Acid reflux is the most prominent sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease. A burning sensation in the chest, which may spread to the throat, is a common symptom of acid reflux. Often referred to as heartburn, this sensation is not pleasant.
The back of your mouth may get sour or bitter if you suffer from acid reflux. Foods that have been in the stomach could come back up into the mouth as a result.
Other GERD symptoms include:
- Burning chest
- Difficulty swallowing
- Having a hard time chewing and swallowing
- Irritating and persistently coughing
- Throat irritation
- Having foul breath
What factors contribute to GERD symptoms?
Caused by slack or weak lower esophageal sphincter, acid reflux is a common health problem (valve). After food reaches the stomach, a valve closes securely. Your food and liquids in the stomach can back up into your esophagus if this muscle relaxes when it shouldn’t.
According to doctors, it can be caused by a combination of factors, some of which are:
- The abdominal area was compressed too heavily. As a result of this added strain, some pregnant women suffer from heartburn on a near-daily basis.
- Certain diets and food preferences (such as those for dairy, heat, or grease).
- Medicines include pain relievers, sleep aids, and antidepressants, as well as those used to treat asthma, high blood pressure, and allergies.
- Specifically, a hernia of the hiatus. When the upper stomach protrudes into the diaphragm, it prevents a person from eating normally.
Diagnosing acid reflux disease
You’ll need to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms in order to be diagnosed with GERD. Your doctor will do a physical examination and may also prescribe the following tests:
- Endoscopy: This procedure allows a flexible tube with a light and a small camera to be placed down the throat to view the esophagus and stomach from the inside. If a tissue sample (biopsy) is required, it can be collected during an endoscopy.
- pH monitoring: This test looks for esophageal acid buildup from stomach acid.
- Motility testing: This check to see how well the esophagus is working. One uses a catheter, a thin, flexible tube, to enter the body through the nose, travel through the esophagus, and into the stomach.
Treating heartburn and acid reflux
Doctors often recommend adjusting a patient’s lifestyle in order to help with GERD management and symptom relief:
- staying at a healthy weight (if relevant)
- If you smoke, you should stop.
- Keeping evening meals light and avoiding heavy ones
- waiting a couple of hours after a meal before going to sleep
- Resting with your head propped up (by raising the head of your bed 6-8 inches)
The following over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are ones your doctor may recommend. It’s important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of each medicine with your doctor in order to choose which one is right for you.
Acid reflux and GERD symptoms are often moderate and treated with antacids like Tums. But, you may need a stronger medicine if you find yourself taking antacids on a daily basis.
H2 receptor blockers
Pepcid AC and similar H2 blockers are effective in reducing gastric acid production according to the best doctors. Over-the-counter (OTC) H2 blockers are common, and stronger versions of these drugs are available with a prescription.
It’s worth noting that the FDA has just recalled ranitidine, an H2 blocker because it contains the carcinogenic chemical N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
Acid production in the stomach can also be reduced by PPIs like Prilosec. When it comes to repairing the esophageal lining, which might get damaged when someone has GERD for a while, they are more effective than H2 blockers.
Several PPIs, including H2 blockers, are available over-the-counter, and your doctor may prescribe a stronger version if necessary.
What are some of the risks associated with GERD?
In addition to GERD, untreated acid reflux can cause a host of additional symptoms and complications. Such things could include:
- Esophagitis. The acid in the stomach can irritate the esophagus and lead to this condition.
- Esophageal strictures are a narrowing of the esophagus. If you have trouble swallowing, this may be the case.
- Discomfort in breathing. This occurs when food or other stomach contents go up the esophagus and into the lungs.
- Barret’s esophagus. The esophageal lining is negatively impacted. Esophageal cancer is a possible outcome in certain people who suffer from this condition.
Acid reflux, also called heartburn, is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. In most cases, over-the-counter antacids and minor lifestyle adjustments, such as not lying down for a few hours after eating, will alleviate these infrequent but uncomfortable episodes. Speak to your gastroenterologist doctor if you think one of your medications is causing heartburn, or if you get heartburn more than twice a week despite making minor lifestyle adjustments. Never adjust or stop taking a medication without first consulting your doctor.
1. When should I contact my doctor for acid reflux?
Call your doctor if you get acid reflux/heartburn more than twice a week for more than a few weeks, despite taking heartburn and antacids on a regular basis.
2. What causes heartburn during pregnancy?
Up to 45 percent of pregnant women suffer from acid reflux. The hormone progesterone rises during pregnancy, and it relaxes the sphincter between the stomach and the esophagus, allowing acid reflux to occur.
3. What are the prospects for GERD?
The signs and symptoms of GERD are controllable. You may be able to reduce the severity of your GERD symptoms by making certain changes to your diet and sleeping routine and by using the medication as directed.