ACID REFLUX: A RED FLAG

ACID REFLUX A RED FLAG

At the stomach entrance is a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter which is supposed to close when food passes through it. On some occasions, the acid produced by the stomach may flow back into the esophagus causing a heartburn. The occurrence of heartburns more twice a week is one of the acid reflux symptoms.

Risk factors

  • Obesity-study reveals that increase in body weight causes gastroesophageal anatomy and physiological changes which affects the functioning of the esophageal sphincter leading to a rise in acid reflux among people with obesity.
  • Diabetes-gastroparesis is a common condition among diabetic people. This is a condition where food takes longer in the stomach hence the probability of stomach acid flowing back into the food pipe is high causing heartburn.
  • Hiatus hernia-this is a condition where the upper part of the stomach, located below the diaphragm, pushes into the chest region. This causes the stomach acid to push to the lower cavity of the chest, causing acid reflux disease.
  • Pregnancy-scientific studies reveal that 30-50 percent of pregnant women experience acid reflux symptoms. This is because pregnancy causes relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter muscles allowing acid from the stomach to flow back to the food pipe.
  • Peptic ulcers– peptic ulcers cause food that has been consumed to fail to move efficiently, leading to reflux.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.

Symptoms

  • Chest pain-this is one of the major symptoms of acid reflux. It is caused by the flow of the stomach acid into the food pipe.
  • Post-meal pain-normally, after taking a heavy meal, pain sets in. This occurs as a result of the stomach filling up and its contents have no outlet other than the food pipe hence they move up.
  • Hoarseness-presence of stomach acid in the esophagus causes irritation of the vocal cords causing the voice to sound husky. This could be a sign of reflux.
  • Wheezing-wheezing and having chronic coughs can be caused by heartburns emanating from the presence of stomach acids in your lungs. The occurrence of breathing difficulties especially after eating could be a sign of acid reflux.
  • Nausea-nausea is caused by so many things, key among them being reflux. This is especially so if nausea manifests after meals.
  • Pain when swallowing-acid reflux causes the lower esophagus tissue to swell causing scarring which results in difficulty in swallowing.
  • Bloating
  • Burping

Complications

Some of the complications associated with acid reflux include:

  • Asthma and aspiration pneumonia
  • Esophageal ulcers
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Esophageal Strictures

Alarm signs

It is advisable to see a doctor immediately if you happen to experience difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), weight loss, painful swallowing (odynophagia) and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Treatment

In cases where treatments and medication are required, there are a couple of drugs available in the market which includes:

  • Prokinetics -this remedy improves the ability of the stomach to flash out the contents quickly.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors-these drugs slow down the production of stomach acid.
  • H2 blockers-H2 blockers slow down acid production.

Though rare, surgery can be done to treat acid reflux but only in extreme cases

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