Acid reflux is when the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), a muscle at the base of the oesophagus, opens when it shouldn’t. It lets stomach acid and food back into the oesophagus, giving you heartburn or other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Most people who get frequent acid reflux can take steps to control it with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. But persistent symptoms require a thorough evaluation by a doctor who can find the underlying cause and offer treatment.
Table of Contents
Reflux can be brought on by acid reflux, caused by a weak or relaxed lower oesophagal sphincter (the valve that usually closes after food enters your stomach). It is referred to as GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
It’s more severe than heartburn and can lead to other problems, such as scar tissue that narrows your oesophagus, sores (peptic ulcers), or precancerous changes to the lining of your Barrett’s oesophagus.
Doctors from Gastroenterology Of The Rockies can diagnose GERD by looking at symptoms, taking a medical history, and performing tests. These include pH monitoring, oesophagal manometry, and upper endoscopy.
The lower oesophagal sphincter (LES), a circular muscle surrounding your oesophagus’s base, relaxes improperly to cause acid reflux. When it does, stomach acid and food flow back into your oesophagus, causing heartburn symptoms.
The LES closes again to prevent this backwash of stomach acid. However, when GERD happens frequently, it can wear away the tissue lining your oesophagus, exposing it to stomach acids and causing problems like scarring and damage to your oesophagus.
Other conditions that can cause acid reflux include a hiatal hernia, where part of your stomach bulges up through a hole in your diaphragm, or gastroesophageal junction disease, which is a condition that makes it harder for the lower oesophagal ring to close.
Adults with acid reflux have symptoms like burning chest pain after eating, a bitter taste in the mouth, or frequent belching. During feedings, babies and children with GERD may arch their backs or spit up more than usual.
If you’ve been experiencing frequent heartburn, you may be diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Acid reflux is more severe than simple heartburn and can cause symptoms such as esophagitis or Barrett’s oesophagus.
Your doctor can diagnose GERD based on your symptoms and a physical exam. They may also order medical tests to see if you have the condition.
Upper GI radiology study: This test is called a barium swallow and uses X-ray imaging to show the lining of your upper digestive tract. The X-ray shows any liquid backing into your oesophagus or irritation or narrowing of your oesophagus.
24-hour impedance-ph probe: This test sends a tube with a pH sensor through your nose into your oesophagus for 24 hours. The line monitors how much acid is in your oesophagus and how often you have reflux episodes.
Other tests include endoscopy and biopsy. An endoscope is a thin tube with a light and camera on the end that your doctor inserts down your throat to look at the lining of your oesophagus and stomach. A small tissue sample (biopsy) is removed for analysis.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is brought on by persistent stomach acid reflux into the tube that connects your mouth and stomach (GERD). Its constant backwash of acid can irritate the lining of the oesophagus and cause symptoms like heartburn.
Most people with GERD can control symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication. But some patients need surgery to improve their symptoms.
Medications to treat GERD include over-the-counter antacids, H2 blockers, or proton pump inhibitors. These medications reduce the acid in your stomach and can provide short-term relief.
Some GERD treatment options include medications that can tighten the muscle between your stomach and esophagus (esophageal sphincter). These drugs can help your stomach empty faster and decrease symptoms.
Doctors may also conduct pH testing to gauge the acid level in your oesophagus over time. These tests can confirm a diagnosis of GERD and help determine the best treatment for you.