Acid Reflux: Know About That Burning Sensation In Your Chest And Stomach
Acid Reflux is a condition in which your stomach contents come back up into your oesophagus. When the acid in the stomach comes in contact with the oesophagus lining, it leads to heartburn. This condition can usually be fixed by simply improving your food habits and making some lifestyle changes.
Several alternative terms can be used to explain the same health problem:
- Acid indigestion
- Acid regurgitation
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Causes of Acid Reflux in adults
It usually develops due to a weak or dysfuctional lower oesophageal sphincter. This can be due to some factors, such as:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Certain medicines (like painkillers, sedatives, antidepressants, allergy medicines)
- Active or passive smoking
- Excess consumption of aerated / carbonated drinks and caffeine
- Eating big portions of food in one sitting
- Lying down right after eating
A less common cause of acid reflux is Hiatal Hernia. It’s a condition in which the diaphragm opening allows the upper part of the stomach to move up into your chest. This lowers the pressure inside the esophageal sphincter.
Signs & Symptoms
- You may taste food or stomach acid in the back of your mouth.
- Painful, burning feeling in the middle of your chest and abdomen.
- Foul breath
- Pain in the chest or upper abdomen
- Difficulty or pain while swallowing
- Respiratory problems
- Vomiting and nausea
- Tooth decay
Critical Signs & Symptoms
- Persistent acid reflux and consistent heartburns
- Heavy vomiting
- Greenish / Yellowish fluid in vomit or blood in vomit
- Breathing problems, specially post vomiting
- Pain in the mouth or throat while eating
- Difficulty or pain while swallowing
Typically the diagnosis is done by a doctor after reviewing you symptoms and the medical history. If there is no improvement in the symptoms even after changes in the diet and lifestyle as advised by the doctor then specific tests are conducted to know more about the symptoms and plan a treatment accordingly.
The tests are:
- Upper GI endoscopy
In this diagnostic procedure the doctor uses an endoscope with a small camera mounted on it to see inside your GI tract. The patient is given anaesthesia through the intravenous route or as a liquid which is to be gargled. The endoscope is then carefully placed and fed inside down the oesophagus all the upto the stomach and duodenum. The doctor can view the inside images on a monitor which allows the doctor to examine the lining of the upper GI tract. Mostly this procedure will only diagnose Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD if the symptoms are moderate to severe.
In some cases a biopsy is performed as the endoscopy procedure is being carried out by the doctor. A small piece of tissue is taken from the lining of the oesophagus and sent to the lab where a pathologist shall examine it.
- Upper GI Series
This procedure is performed by the radiologist and does not require any kind of sedative or anaesthesia. The x-ray taken are generally meant to find issues such as – hiatal hernia, ulcers, oesophageal strictures.
- Esophageal pH and impedance monitoring
This is considered to be a very accurate diagnostic method and provides the best results to know the severity of acid reflux. It helps in detecting the issue by measuring the amount of acid in the esophagus while the patient performs normal, daily activities such as eating and sleeping.
- Restrict consumption of spicy or oily foods
- Limit consumption of alcohol and aerated drinks
- Stick to a high-fibre diet of fresh hydrating fruits and immunity-boosting vegetables
- Observe a 2-3 hour gap between dinner and bed time
- Exercise regularly
- Quit smoking and avoid passive smoke
- Take OTC medicines only when absolutely necessary
- Avoid wearing tight clothes, specially around the abdomen / waist area
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