Acid reflux can be triggered by the following factors, which include eating a heavy meal, lying down after eating, and snacking before bedtime.
Acid reflux can be triggered by factors, including:
- A heavy meal
- Lying down immediately after a meal
- Snacking close to bedtime
- Certain foods
- Smoking tobacco (active and passive both)
- Certain medications
- Calcium channel blockers (medicines prescribed for high blood pressure), such as nifedipine
- Beta-blockers (medicines prescribed for high blood pressure and anxiety), such as propranolol
- Antihistamines (medicines to treat allergic reactions)
- Sedatives (medicines that help put you to sleep)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (medicines that treat depression)
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Osteoporosis medications, such as bisphosphonates
- Iron supplements
What causes acid reflux?
Not everyone suffers from acid reflux frequently, but it is not uncommon. At least 40 percent of Americans suffer from acid reflux once a month.
If you have been suffering from acid reflux at least two times a week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or chronic acid reflux disease, a structural chronic digestive disorder in which mild acid reflux occurs at least two times a week or moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs at least one time a weak.
Chronic acid reflux disease results from the weakening or relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). LES is a valve that is present between the lower part of the esophagus and the upper part of the stomach. It prevents the food and acid in the stomach from flowing backward or up (refluxing) into the esophagus.
Factors that can weaken the LES and cause chronic acid reflux disease include:
- Increased pressure on the abdomen due to obesity or pregnancy
- Hiatus hernia (a condition in which the upper part of the stomach moves up into the chest due to the weakening of the diaphragm)
10 symptoms of chronic acid reflux disease
If you have chronic acid reflux, you may experience additional symptoms, such as:
- Frequent heartburn (most common symptom)
- Taste of eaten food or stomach acid in your throat or mouth
- Pain or discomfort in your chest or the upper part of your abdomen
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Throat irritation
- Hoarse voice
- Recurrent cough
GERD is the back up of stomach acid into the esophagus.
Is chronic acid reflux disease a serious condition?
Chronic acid reflux is not a serious condition. Only in the long term, if not treated well, it can cause complications, such as:
- Esophagitis: Esophagitis refers to the irritation and inflammation caused by the acid reflux in the lining of the esophagus. Esophagitis can cause ulcers in the esophagus. These ulcers can bleed and cause blood loss.
- Barrett's esophagus: Barrett's esophagus is a condition that develops in about 10 percent of people with long-term gastroesophageal reflux disease. The condition increases the chances of developing cancer of the esophagus.
- Esophageal cancer: This may result due to Barret’s esophagus (adenocarcinoma) or from squamous cells (squamous cell carcinoma).
- Strictures: Narrowing of the esophagus due to scarring of the damaged lining of the esophagus.
How is chronic acid reflux disease treated?
For acid reflux, you may find relief from any over-the-counter (OTC) medications that include:
- Antacids: These medications neutralize the stomach acids and provide relief.
- H-2 receptor blockers: These medications decrease acid production and include
- Proton pump inhibitors: These reduce stomach acid but are stronger acid blockers. They help heal damaged esophagus tissue.
If you do not get relief from these drugs, your doctor may prescribe you a larger dose. They may put you on another drug, baclofen, a prescription drug that works on the lower esophageal sphincter to reduce acid reflux.
If you do not want to take medications for long, your doctor may recommend surgeries that include:
- Nissen fundoplication: This is the name given for laparoscopic antireflux surgery. It is a minimally invasive procedure that involves creating a new valve mechanism at the lower part of the esophagus.
- LINX device implantation: Another minimally invasive surgery, LINX device implantation involves putting a ring of tiny magnets between the stomach and esophagus.
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What tests may be done if you have acid reflux?
Before asking you to undergo tests for acid reflux, your doctor will take your medical history and look for factors that may be causing or triggering your acid reflux.
For example, if you have a lot of caffeinated drinks frequently or take medication, your doctor would like to see if limiting consumption or changing medication helps control acid reflux.
If dietary modifications and simple medications do not help relieve the condition your doctor may ask you to get tested for chronic acid reflux disease with the following tests:
- Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy and biopsy: A small tube-like camera is inserted into the mouth and moved toward the throat. This helps visualize the internal structure of the esophagus and stomach and look for any GERD-suggestive changes. The doctor may cut a small piece from the esophagus or stomach (biopsy) and send it to the laboratory for examination.
- Upper GI series: You will be told to swallow a liquid. X-rays of the esophagus and stomach will be taken as the liquid passes through these organs.
- Esophageal pH-impedance monitoring: This is a 24-hour monitoring test that measures the amount of food and acid reflux in the esophagus and checks whether the symptoms are correlated with the reflux.
- Bravo wireless esophageal pH monitoring: This is a 48-hour test that measures how much acid and food is refluxed in 48 hours.
- Esophageal manometry: A small flexible tube with sensors is inserted into the nose to enter the esophagus. The sensors present in the tube measure the strength of the muscles in different parts of the esophagus.