Acid reflux is a condition that the esophagus has stomach acids backs up (refluxes) into it. GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), is chronic acid reflux and is often a lifelong condition. Acid reflux liquid contains less acid than GERD, so there is less irritation and damage to the esophagus. Heartburn is the burning sensation from acid reflux and GERD.
The symptom of acid reflux include heartburn, stomach liquid back up into esophagus, and irritation or damage to the esophagus. The liquid that backs up may include pepsin (an enzyme that starts the digestion of proteins in the stomach) and bile (backed up from the small intestine into the stomach) in addition to acid. Stomach acid is responsible for the majority of inflammation, irritation, and damage to the esophagus. The body naturally attempts to protect itself from the back up of stomach liquid. It produces mucus and a cough can develop as the body attempts to expel the extra mucus.
When the symptoms are not responding to self-care, it’s time to see a doctor. Another sign that professional medical attention may be needed is that the symptoms interfere with sleep, work, and other activities. Acid reflux is usually diagnosed by the health care provider by the symptoms the patient describes. It is usually suggested that there be changes made to reduce the problem.
Changes that help acid reflux:
When life changes, over-the-counter antacids, and prescription medication aren’t effective to control acid reflux, a referral to a gastroenterologist may be made. This specialist may perform tests like an upper GI series to rule out undiagnosed cause of the condition. The specialist may also perform an in-office procedure called an EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy). This procedure will allow the doctor to assess damage, provide treatment for some conditions, and even take a biopsy if needed.
When attending follow up visits, be honest. Let your doctor know if you were able to follow through with changes needed to relieve acid reflux. It will allow the doctor to provide effective treatment adjustments if needed.