What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux, commonly associated with the symptom known as heartburn, is a condition where stomach acid or bile flows back into the esophagus, which connects the throat to the stomach. This backflow is due to relaxation or dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular ring at the juncture of the esophagus and stomach. 

When functioning correctly, the LES acts as a one-way valve that allows food into the stomach but not back up into the esophagus. However, when the LES is compromised, the corrosive stomach acids can cause a burning sensation in the chest and throat and, if persistent, lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Beyond the sensation of heartburn, acid reflux can produce a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, or more severe complications such as esophageal damage. It’s a condition that affects a wide range of individuals and can be triggered by dietary choices, lifestyle factors, certain medications, or structural issues within the digestive system.

What are the symptoms of acid reflux?

The hallmark symptom of acid reflux is heartburn — a burning sensation in your chest, behind your breastbone, which can worsen when lying down or bending over. Other signs may include:

  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis

Disrupted sleep due to discomfort

If these symptoms occur more than twice a week, it may indicate GERD, and you should seek medical attention.

Causes and risk factors

Acid reflux is primarily caused by abnormalities in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach. Factors that can exacerbate acid reflux include:

  • Obesity
  • Lying down after a meal
  • Snacking close to bedtime
  • Eating certain foods, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
  • Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications, like aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure prescriptions

Diagnosing acid reflux

Diagnosing GERD involves reviewing your symptoms and medical history. If over-the-counter medications haven’t been effective, your doctor may recommend tests, including:

  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to look for signs of esophageal damage.
  • Ambulatory acid (pH) probe test to identify when acid reflux occurs.
  • Esophageal motility testing to measure movement and pressure in your esophagus.
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Treatment options

Treatment aims to reduce reflux, relieve symptoms, and prevent damage to your esophagus. Over-the-counter treatments include antacids and H2 receptor blockers. When these aren’t effective, stronger medications such as proton pump inhibitors may be prescribed.

Lifestyle changes can also significantly impact the management of GERD. These may include:

  • Weight loss if overweight or obese
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Avoiding trigger foods and drinks
  • Not lying down after a meal
  • Elevating the head of the bed
  • Not smoking

In severe cases, or when lifestyle and medications are insufficient, surgery may be necessary to reinforce the LES.

What happens if acid reflux is not treated?

Chronic, untreated acid reflux can lead to serious complications including:

  • Esophagitis: Inflammation that can damage tissues of the esophagus.
  • Strictures: Scar tissue that narrows the esophagus, affecting swallowing.
  • Barrett’s esophagus: A condition that increases the risk of esophageal cancer.

It is crucial to manage GERD symptoms through lifestyle changes, medication, and, if necessary, surgical intervention to prevent these serious complications.

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Why choose us for your acid reflux treatment

Our clinic’s team is dedicated to providing patient-centered, effective care for acid reflux. Our team of specialists offers comprehensive diagnostics and personalized treatment plans, utilizing the latest medical advancements and techniques. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, combining medication management, dietary guidance, and, if necessary, surgical solutions to ensure the best outcomes for our patients.

Our commitment to excellence in patient care means we strive to understand your unique needs and lifestyle, ensuring treatments provide relief and a path to long-term wellness. Our providers prioritize open communication and education, empowering you to participate actively in your journey to improved health and comfort.

Whether you’re experiencing the first signs of acid reflux or seeking more advanced care, we are here to offer you relief and peace of mind. Our collaborative approach and state-of-the-art treatments make us leaders in managing gastroesophageal conditions. Trust us to provide you with the care you need to live a life free from the discomfort of acid reflux.

With 6 convenient locations around the Louisiana area, we're never far away.

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