The place where the esophagus meets the stomach is a valve called the lower esophagus sphincter (LES), which is a small ring of muscle, responsible for the passage of food. When the food reaches the end of the esophagus, the LES opens up, and the food moves into the stomach, after which it closes back so that the food in the stomach does not move up. In cases where the LES does not close properly, or it loosens up, the acid that is produced in the stomach rushes back into the esophagus, leading to a burning sensation. Such activity is called acid reflux.
One of the most common causes of acid reflux is the abnormality in the stomach called hiatal hernia. The abnormality occurs when the position of the stomach and LES shift above the diaphragm.
The other factors that cause acid reflux include
· Consumption of large meals
· Lying down after a meal
· Obesity or overweight
· Bending over or lying on the back after a heavy meal
· Consuming carbonated, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks
· Being Pregnant
· Consuming blood pressure medicines or muscle relaxers
Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Some of the common symptoms of acid reflux are
· Heartburn: A burning sensation or discomfort caused by the stomach initially and moves up to the chest, abdomen or throat.
· Regurgitation: The presence of bitter or sour tasting acid at the back of the mouth or throat.
The other acid reflux symptoms are
· Black or bloody stools
· Bloody vomiting
· Loss of weight without any reason
· A dry cough
· A chronic Sore throat
· Dysphagia: The narrowing of esophagus
In case the acid reflux symptoms show up more than twice or thrice a week, it is the time to pay a visit to the doctor. However, one or more of the below tests can help better diagnose the disease.
· Barium Swallow: To check for ulcers or narrowing of the esophagus. It requires the patients to swallow a solution so that the structures become visible on X-rays.
· Esophageal Manometry: It helps check the function of esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter
· pH monitoring: To check the acid level in the esophagus. In this test, the doctor leaves a device in the esophagus for a day or two to measure the acid level in the esophagus.
· Endoscopy: To check for any issues in the stomach or the esophagus. In an endoscopy test, a long, flexible, and illuminated tube are inserted down the throat. The tube has an attached camera to view the internal activity. First, the doctor spays some anesthetics on the back of the throat and gives a sedative to keep the patient comfortable while inserting the tube.
· Biopsy: A biopsy is used to check the tissue samples to identify any kind of abnormalities or infections.
Acid reflux is a common digestion problem that might sometimes occur due to a disease or sometimes just due to the consumption of wrong food. However, once the symptoms of acid reflux are visible more than twice or thrice a week, it is advised to visit a doctor and get diagnosed.