The esophagus is a long, hollow, and muscular tube allowing the passage of food and liquid from your throat to the stomach. The esophagus has a valve at its bottom called the esophageal sphincter, vital for preventing swallowed food from moving out of the stomach into the esophagus. Your belly also has a strong acid that aids digestion. Sometimes, the esophageal sphincter may not work properly, leading to the acidic content of the stomach returning to the esophagus and the mouth. In such a situation, you have a medical condition called GERD / acid reflux Houston. If your acid reflux lasts more than a few weeks, that may indicate you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
1. Common symptoms of GERD/acid reflux
You may show common signs such as heartburn, chest pain, swallowing difficulty, nausea, vomiting, regular burping, and a sour or acidic taste at the throat’s back. The signs and symptoms of GERD/acid reflux often worsen after lying down, bending, or eating.
If you have acid reflux at night, you may have frequent coughing, vocal cords inflammation, and worsening or new asthma symptoms.
2. Complications of GERD/acid reflux
If heartburn lasts for weeks and you do not seek treatment, you risk the esophagus lining becoming inflamed. The corrosive nature of your stomach acid can damage the inner lining or tissues of your esophagus, leading to bleeding, swelling, and even ulcers. Inflammation of the inner lining of the esophagus can make the passage of food difficult and painful.
Another potential complication you may have due to persistent GERD/acid reflux is the narrowing of the esophagus, which is called an esophageal stricture. An abnormal narrowing or tightening of the esophagus will make it difficult for you to swallow food.
The destruction of the inner lining of the esophagus may also put you at risk of esophageal cancer. Usually, esophageal cancer comes from smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and chewing tobacco.
3. Types of GERD
There are four different types of GERD, depending on the frequency of occurrence and the severity of the symptoms. GERD is classified as either mild, moderate, severe, or precancer/cancer.
For example, mild GERD appears once or twice monthly. On the other hand, precancer GERD occurs after several years without treatment.
4. Treatment of GERD/acid reflux
Your doctor can prescribe over-the-counter medications to help prevent or treat your heartburn. Antacids can help relieve indigestion and acid reflux.
If you have mild or occasional acid reflux, your doctor may recommend adopting a few healthy lifestyle changes. You may have to avoid certain foods, carbonated beverages, and smoking. Foods that are fatty or spicy and others like onions, chocolate, and tomato sauce can trigger heartburn.
Moreover, you can treat or prevent GERD/acid reflux by going to sleep a few hours after eating, losing weight, eating slowly, wearing loose-fitting clothing, and ensuring your head is raised while lying down or sleeping. For example, losing extra weight relieves pressure from the lower esophageal sphincter, leading to the muscular structure working effectively.
Your doctor may also treat your long-lasting acid reflux by subjecting you to antireflux surgery. The surgical procedure reinforces the barrier between the stomach and esophagus to stop acid reflux.
Contact Vikram S Jayanty, M.D., today to schedule an appointment if you struggle with GERD/acid reflux symptoms.