Everything you need to know about diagnosing and treating acid reflux
What is acid reflux, and what are the symptoms?
Acid reflux, also known as heartburn, is a condition in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. This can happen when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes or weakens. Acid reflux can cause a burning sensation in the chest or throat, and sometimes people may even taste stomach acid in the back of their mouths. Acid reflux can be painful and uncomfortable but usually goes away on its own. However, for some people, it can be a chronic condition. If you experience frequent or severe acid reflux, you should see your doctor rule out other potential causes of your symptoms. Treatment for acid reflux may include lifestyle changes, medications, or surgery.
How is acid reflux diagnosed, and what tests are used?
Acid reflux is diagnosed by a doctor after a physical examination and a review of your symptoms. The doctor may also recommend tests to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as heartburn. Acid reflux is often diagnosed based on medical history, physical examination, and review of your symptoms. However, testing may be needed to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. Common tests used to diagnose acid reflux include upper GI series (X-ray) and endoscopy. An upper GI series is an X-ray of the upper digestive tract. This test can help find ulcers, bleeding, or blockages in the esophagus or stomach. An endoscopy is a procedure that uses a small camera to look inside the esophagus and stomach. During this procedure, a small sample of tissue may be taken for further testing.
How is acid reflux treated, and what are the possible side effects of treatment?
Acid reflux is often treated with lifestyle changes, over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, or surgery. Treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms and how often you experience them. If lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications, such as antacids or histamine blockers. If these don’t help or if you have frequent symptoms, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers. Surgery is an option for people who have frequent acid reflux and BE (Barrett’s esophagus), a condition in which the lining of the esophagus becomes damaged from exposure to stomach acid over time. Surgery is also an option for people who have failed other medical treatment options and still have frequent acid reflux symptoms.
Can acid reflux lead to other health problems, such as cancer or esophageal damage?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to acid reflux, including dietary choices, stress, and certain medical conditions. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent or reduce your risk of developing acid reflux. Avoiding Trigger Foods: Acidic and spicy foods are common trigger foods for acid reflux. If you find that these foods exacerbate your symptoms, avoid them or eat them in small amounts. Eating Slowly and Chewing Thoroughly: Eating quickly can increase the amount of air you swallow, which can lead to bloating and increased pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Chewing thoroughly helps to break down food so that it is easier to digest and less likely to trigger reflux. Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Being overweight or obese puts additional pressure on the LES, making it more likely for stomach acid to rise up into the esophagus. If you are struggling with your weight, talk to your doctor about ways to reach a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Acid reflux is a common condition that can be painful and inconvenient. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent or reduce your risk of developing acid reflux. By avoiding trigger foods, eating slowly and chewing thoroughly, and maintaining a healthy weight, you can help keep your symptoms under control.