Acid reflux is a condition that is very common. But just because it is common does not mean that it is a comfortable condition. When digestion does not take place as it should the contents of your stomach will go back to the esophagus. These contents are highly acidic and are harmful.
Acid reflux is a fairly common condition that occurs when stomach acids and other stomach contents back up into the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscular ring located in the digestive tract where the esophagus meets the stomach. The LES opens to allow food into the stomach when you swallow, and then closes to prevent stomach contents from rising up into the esophagus. When the LES is weak or damaged it may not close properly. This allows harmful stomach contents to back up into the esophagus, causing acid reflux symptoms.
Now whether the condition is harmless or not there are some instances that develop into something else serious like heartburns. People who suffer from heartburns usually have an awful time after meals. The condition ruins everything and can last for hours. When heartburns become constant it is now a disease.
Heartburn is a discomfort – happening in the esophagus and felt behind the breastbone area – that takes the form of a burning sensation; it generally gets worse when the person lies down or bends over. It can last for several hours and also tends to worsen after eating food.
The burning pain may move up toward the neck and throat; stomach fluid can reach the back of the throat in some cases, producing a bitter or sour taste.
If heartburn occurs regularly – two or more times a week – it is termed gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short. GERD can also have other symptoms, including:
- Dry, persistent cough
- Asthma and recurrent pneumonia
- Throat problems – soreness, hoarseness, or laryngitis (voice box inflammation)
- Difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Chest or upper abdominal pain
- Dental erosion
- Bad breath
If the condition is not worse and manageable you can talk to a doctor who will then prescribe the appropriate medication. Some of the medication is inclusive of antacids, medication to allow low acid production, block acid production and heal the esophagus.
Over-the-counter treatments that may help control heartburn include:
- Antacids that neutralize stomach acid.Antacids, such as Maalox, Mylanta, Gelusil, Gaviscon, Rolaids and Tums, may provide quick relief. But antacids alone won’t heal an inflamed esophagus damaged by stomach acid. Overuse of some antacids can cause side effects, such as diarrhea or constipation.
- Medications to reduce acid production.Called H-2-receptor blockers, these medications include cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR) or ranitidine (Zantac). H-2-receptor blockers don’t act as quickly as antacids do, but they provide longer relief and may decrease acid production from the stomach for up to 12 hours. Stronger versions of these medications are available in prescription form.
- Medications that block acid production and heal the esophagus.Proton pump inhibitors are stronger blockers of acid production than are H-2-receptor blockers and allow time for damaged esophageal tissue to heal. Over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors include lansoprazole (Prevacid 24 HR) and omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid OTC).
Contact your doctor if you need to take these medications for longer than two to three weeks or your symptoms are not relieved.