Acid reflux disease is also known as gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD and is a very common condition especially in the western world. The symptoms of this disease are felt by at least 20% of western residents once a week. Most GERD sufferers experience significant decline of their overall health and quality of life as a result of the condition however only a few people are actually mindful of their medical problem.
The following are frequently asked questions and their answers which can help you become more aware of this condition and how to manage it properly.
What is acid reflux disease?
This is a condition where stomach acids back up into the esophagus causing it to become enflamed and sensitive. The esophagus is not resistant to stomach acids as the stomach is which is why it gets easily irritated and damaged. The irritation often goes up to a point where swallowing is difficult and even talking and there is hoarseness and coughing. Acid reflux can occur even at such a young age that children may show symptoms if they are not eating right.
What are the symptoms of acid reflux disease?
Symptoms of this disease include the following:
- Heartburn – that burning feeling that spreads from the lower chest or stomach towards the throat or neck.
- Chest pain not related to heart attack.
- Regurgitation – food backs up into the mouth.
- Dysphagia – difficulty swallowing.
- Dental erosion, asthma and hoarseness occur as acidic juices makes their way into the air passages of the lungs, throat and mouth.
How does one get acid reflux disease?
Stomach acid and enzymes, which are special chemicals that help to break down food, partially digest food in the stomach before these are delivered by the stomach muscle into the small intestine for complete digestion. In people with GERD however, the stomach acids goes back into the esophagus causing damage and inflammation. There are factors that contribute to acid reflux which include:
- Fatty foods
- Delayed emptying of the stomach
Pregnancy and obesity increase pressures in the abdomen and stomach contents are pushed back into the esophagus. Some people just have stomachs that are slow in emptying contents into the intestines making the stomach distended longer and the person more prone to acid reflux.
Is acid reflux disease serious?
Everyday activities and the quality of lives of individuals suffering from GERD are affected by the symptoms of this condition. Frequent heartburn is also felt and this can be very troublesome. GERD can also lead to esophagatis where the lining of the esophagus is damaged and become ulcerated. Esophagatis can make swallowing of food and liquids difficult because the esophagus becomes narrower.
How long does the disease last?
If not treated, the condition can last for months and months. Medication is usually necessary for a short time however it may be repeated as symptoms tend to re-occur.
How is acid reflux disease treated?
Most common treatments for GERD include:
- Antacids – these are over the counter medicines that are usually taken to treat mild acid-related symptoms like indigestion and heartburn. Antacids neutralize the acid in the stomach but these OTC drugs are often not recommended to cure the frequent symptoms of GERD.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – these lessen the production of acids in the stomach by acting on the cells found on the stomach walls which are responsible for generating and releasing the acids.
- Acid blockers like histamine2-receptor antagonists – the body, under different conditions, release chemicals called histamine. This is particularly produced during inflammation and in the stomach, the production can release more acids aggravating GERD, therefore blocking it is necessary.
- Prokinetic agents – these provide relief from acid reflux disease symptoms by encouraging the emptying of the stomach so it does not become distended.