Acid Reflux (GERD)
Acid Reflux (GERD) Quick Overview
- Acid reflux (GERD) is a condition
in which acid backs up from the stomach into the esophagus and even up to
the throat, irritating the tissue.
- Acid reflux can be caused by many
different things, including lifestyle, medication, diet, pregnancy, rapid
weight gain, and certain medical conditions.
- Symptoms of acid reflux include
heartburn, regurgitation of bitter acid into the throat, bitter taste in
mouth, dry cough, hoarseness, feeling of tightness in the throat, and
- Tests to diagnose acid reflux (GERD)
include and upper GI series (X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and upper
part of the intestine), an upper GI endoscopy, esophageal manometry, or a
24-hour pH probe study.
- Home remedies for acid reflux
include changes in lifestyle, diet, and habits.
- Treatment of acid reflux includes
over-the-counter (OTC) medications including antacids and H2-blockers;
prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors, coating agents, and
promotility agents; and in severe cases, surgery.
- Acid reflux can be prevented in
some cases by changing the habits that cause the reflux including avoiding
alcohol, not smoking, limiting fatty foods and other food triggers,
maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding large meals within 3 hours
- The prognosis for acid reflux (GERD)
is good in mild to moderate cases. Chronic cases often respond to
prescription drugs, and severe cases may require surgery to avoid serious
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the esophagus becomes irritated or inflamed because of acid backing up from the stomach. The esophagus or food pipe is the tube stretching from the throat to the stomach. When food is swallowed, it travels down the esophagus.
The stomach produces hydrochloric acid after a meal to aid in the digestion of food.
- The inner lining of the stomach resists corrosion by this acid. The cells lining the stomach secrete large amounts of protective mucus.
- The lining of the esophagus does not share these resistant features and stomach acid can damage it.
- The esophagus lies just behind the heart, so the term "heartburn" was coined to describe the sensation of acid burning the esophagus.
Normally, a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, prevents reflux (or backing up) of acid.
- This sphincter relaxes during swallowing to allow food to pass. It then tightens to prevent flow in the opposite direction.
- With GERD, however, the sphincter relaxes between swallows, allowing stomach contents (gastric reflux) and corrosive acid to well up and damage the lining of the esophagus.
GERD affects about 20% of the US population. Not just adults are affected; even infants and children can have GERD.
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