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Acid Reflux & GERDConditions
Overview

Acid reflux occurs when gastric acid or food flows backward into the esophagus (swallowing tube) from the stomach, creating a burning sensation known as heartburn. While occasional heartburn should not be cause for alarm, it is important to investigate further when symptoms become more serious, potentially signaling gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Symptoms

Common symptoms of acid reflux and GERD include frequent heartburn, which often feels like a burning discomfort behind the breastbone, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and a persistent cough. One might also experience regurgitation, where stomach contents flow back into the mouth, causing a sour taste. Over time these symptoms may lead to inflammation of the esophagus and chronic changes which may predispose one to esophageal cancer.

Testing

If your acid reflux symptoms have become bothersome or worsening, seeking a professional medical evaluation is wise. An endoscopy - using a small camera to visualize your esophagus and lower esophageal sphincter (LES) - can identify any damage caused by GERD and help determine possible solutions. Sometimes more specific testing of the acidity or movement of the esophagus may be required using pH testing or esophageal manometry (measurement of swallowing tube muscle contraction).

Treatment

For mild and occasional heartburn, over-the-counter or prescription medications to decrease stomach acid production or neutralize it may provide temporary relief. However, persistent GERD requires more comprehensive measures, including lifestyle modifications like changing one's diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting late-night eating. Additionally, surgical intervention may be required in certain instances to order to repair a hiatal hernia or weakened muscles at the entrance of the stomach that contribute to symptoms.

Remember, occasional acid reflux is normal. However, frequent heartburn requires immediate action to avoid complications associated with GERD such as damage to the esophageal lining. Always consult a healthcare professional to order to determine the most suitable approach to your individual circumstances.