Acid Reflux: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Acid reflux is also known as heartburn, acid indigestion, or pyrosis that happens when some of the acidic stomach contents go back up into the esophagus.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Acid reflux is also known as heartburn, acid indigestion, or pyrosis that  happens when some of the acidic stomach contents go back up into the esophagus. Acid reflux creates a burning pain in the lower chest area, often after eating.

The stomach contains hydrochloric acid to help break down food and protect against pathogens such as bacteria. The stomach is protected from this strong acid by its lining but the the esophagus is not protected. The gastroesophageal sphincter is a ring of muscle at the entrance to your stomach which acts as a valve that lets food into the stomach but not back up into the esophagus. If this valve fails, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus. This can cause symptoms of acid reflux such as a burning chest pain called heartburn. If acid reflux symptoms happen more than twice a week, you are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Causes of Acid Reflux Disease:

Hiatal hernia is the most common cause of acid reflux which occurs when the upper part of the stomach and gastroesophageal sphincter move above the diaphragm.
Causes of acid reflux disease include:

  • Incorporating certain foods in your diet, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate , spicy or fatty foods.
  • Intake of certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
  • Eating large or heavy meals or lying down right after a meal
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Medications, including drugs for asthma,  blood pressure,antidepressants, antihistamines, painkillers, sedatives
  • Intake of low dietary fiber
  • High intake of table salt

Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease:

Common symptoms of acid reflux include:

  • A burning sensation or pain that moves from your stomach to your abdomen, chest or throat called heartburn.
  • A sour or bitter tasting acid which moves up into your throat or mouth called regurgitation.
  • Throat problems  such as soreness, hoarseness, or laryngitis
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry and persistent cough
  • Dental erosion
  • Bad breath
  • Asthma and recurrent pneumonia
  • Bloating
  • Wheezing,Burping and Hiccups

Diagnosis of Acid Reflux Disease:

Acid reflux is often confused with other chest complaints such as heart attack, pneumonia, chest wall pain or pulmonary embolus. If there is no improvement in heartburn symptoms with  lifestyle changes, antacids, or acid-blocking medications then you are diagnosed with acid reflux disease. Some other test can be conducted to confirm acid Reflux Disease.


Endoscopy:

This test can be conducted to find out the problems in your esophagus or stomach by inserting a long, flexible, lighted tube with a camera down your throat.


pH Monitoring:

This test can be conducted to check the amount of acid in your esophagus. In this test a device is inserted into your esophagus and place it for 1 to 2 days to measure the amount of acid in your esophagus.


Esophageal Manometry:

This test can be conducted to check the performance of the esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter.


Esophagram:

This test can be conducted to find out any ulcers inside esophagus or a narrowing of the esophagus. In this test after swallowing a solution that helps provide contrast on images,the image of esophagus, stomach, and upper duodenum can be taken to find out the problem.

Biopsy:

In this test a samples of tissue is taken during endoscopy to check for infection or abnormalities under a microscope.





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