About Acid Reflux

Heartburn, also called acid reflux and acid indigestion, is a common digestive condition experienced by millions of people every day. It occurs when bile or stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, inflaming or irritating the esophageal lining. This can cause a burning sensation that rises from your stomach to the middle of your abdomen and chest, and sometimes even into your throat. Despite its name, heartburn doesn’t affect your heart.

Symptoms of Reflux

In addition to heartburn, some other reflux symptoms include:

  • regurgitation
  • dyspepsia
  • Sore throat and/or cough
  • Difficulty swallowing, as if mucus is stuck in the throat

Regurgitation is the sensation of acid backing up into your throat or mouth. It often produces a sour or bitter taste in your mouth, or even a “wet burp” or vomit. Dyspepsia is a general term for stomach discomfort and includes such symptoms as burping or nausea after eating, stomach fullness or bloating, and upper abdominal pain and discomfort.

When to See a Doctor for Reflux

See a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms more than twice a week. You may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or another underlying condition that is causing your symptoms. Diagnostic tests will help determine the cause of your symptoms, as well as the most appropriate treatment.

Treatments

For some people, making lifestyle changes like eliminating acid-producing food and drink or sleeping with the head of the bed raised can minimize heartburn and related symptoms. If you don’t experience heartburn frequently, taking over-the-counter antacids can help. If you experience it more often, a gastroenterologist may prescribe a stronger acid-blocking medication, but this should only be taken short-term. Long-term use of acid-blocking medications can lead to negative side effects.

Medications will minimize symptoms, but they won’t correct an underlying problem. If your reflux is caused by a hernia or a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES), you may require surgical treatment to resolve the problem. Treatment procedures include: