Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), commonly referred to as acid reflux or heartburn, is a serious condition caused by a problem with the valve in the esophagus failing to close completely. This causes stomach acid to travel back up into the esophagus. A patient who suffers from acid reflux disease may face symptoms such as a burning sensation in the back of the mouth, regurgitation, a fowl taste in the mouth and heartburn.
In addition, patients with a hiatal hernia may also face an increased risk of developing GERD. Other risk factors that can contribute to a propensity for acid reflux may include obesity or being overweight, pregnancy, and smoking. Certain medicines may also cause acid reflux symptoms.
Acid Reflux, Heartburn Symptoms
Individuals who experience symptoms of acid reflux disease or other gastrointestinal (GI) motility disorders may require diagnostic testing with a physician. Because reflux symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, it is important to have symptoms such as frequent heartburn, belching, difficulty swallowing and chest pain evaluated.
A typical initial evaluation for GERD or acid reflux disease can include an endoscopy, manometry testing, 24-hour pH testing or an esophagram/upper GI X-ray. Medications used to treat acid reflux generally involve the use of H2 blockers (H2-receptor antagonists), which will reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach and/or a Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) to inhibit production of stomach acid.
Acid Reflux, Heartburn, Hiatal Surgery
Patients facing acid reflux concerns may need to undergo surgery for relief of symptoms and to prevent long-term damage to various parts of the body. Indications for surgery may include some of the following:
- Continuing to experience symptoms while taking medicines
- Unwilling to take medicine every day
- Taking medicines that cause unpleasant side effects
- Suffering disease complications