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Signs and Symptoms of Acid Reflux Disease

Updated on October 12, 2012
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Acid reflux is a result of the stomach contents leaking into the esophagus (the gullet) and burning the delicate tissue that lines it; causing excessive inflammation. As most people will experience heartburn at sometime in their lives, acid reflex will occur frequently and may cause erosion of the esophagus and ulcers of the stomach opening.

Voice Changes from GERD

Often, people will have voice changes from the acid invading and inflaming the voice box or vocal cords. Gastroesophageal reflux, known as GERD, may be a very painful condition, but some people don't feel any pain at all. Without treatment, permanent scarring and erosion of the esophagus can cause serious bleeding and degeneration complications.

Acid Reflux

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Possible Causes of Acid Reflux

When you swallow food, it passes in to the stomach and a band muscular fibers close around the entrance of the stomach (the cardiac sphincter) to keep food and acid away from the esophagus. Unfortunately, some people's cardiac sphincter has lost the ability to close tightly enough to protect the esophagus, and the acid burns the tissues and causes pain.

Risk Factors for Acid Reflux

  • Alcohol decreases the muscle tone of the sphincter muscle and may relax the fibers; causing an opening for gastric contents to escape. It may also irritate and stomach lining and cause the organ to spasm as acid leaks back up into the throat.
  • Obesity can cause the abdomen to shift and push the stomach above the diaphragm and place pressure on the stomach. This may also occur in pregnancy, and pregnant women frequently complain about heartburn during this temporary condition.
  • Certain medications can cause relax the tone of the cardiac sphincter, or force it into spasm, causing leakage and the pushing of acid into the food pipe.
  • Stress can cause certain individuals to increase production of acid in the stomach and worsen or induce acid reflux.

The Cause of GERD

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Signs and Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Heartburn on occasion is expected. Everyone has foods that don't agree with them and may cause an upset stomach. However, if heartburn is frequent enough to interfere with your health, you may want to see a physician for help. Acid reflux, or GERD, may lead to serious injury to your esophagus, throat, and cause ulcers around the cardiac sphincter. Some symptoms of acid reflux may be:

  • Burning under the breastbone
  • The feeling that you haven't completely swallowed
  • Voice changes (hoarseness) that may or may not include pain
  • Sore throat, or it hurts when you swallow
  • Increased pain on bending over, lying down or lifting heavy objects
  • Symptoms are worse at night, or after a late meal
  • Nausea during or after a meal
  • You get relief from antacids
  • Hiccups, a cough or difficulty swallowing


Common Medications for Acid Reflux

Medications are designed to help reduce acid in the stomach or reduce the amount of acid released in the stomach. If one class doesn't work, try another. Different medications are classified as:

Proton Pump Inhibitors: The action decreases the amount of acid in the stomach. Some people create more than others, and may produce excessive amounts in times of stress or in response to certain foods or medications. Some examples are:

  • Prevacid
  • Aciphex
  • Prilosec

H2 Blockers (antagonists): Decrease the amount of acid released by the stomach. Some examples are:

  • Tagament
  • Pepcid
  • Zantac
  • Axid

Tests for Acid Reflux (GERD)

If your symptoms are mild, chances are you may benefit from lifestyle changes that will improve your pain and lessen the risks of complications. If you think some medications you are taking are causing the acid reflux, always consult your physician before discontinuing them. However, if you are not finding relief, or have serious indications, your doctor may want to do a test.

EGD - esophagogastroduodenoscopy

You will receive a sedative and the physician will insert a long tube with a fiberoptic camera at the tip through the mouth and into the stomach. The camera will take photos and the physician can see the condition of the stomach and esophageal lining in real time.

Barium Swallow

As you swallow a cupful of barium, the physician can how the stomach is holding on to the contents and if the barium is leaking. Usually a fluoroscope is used to examine the stomach contents, and it looks much like an X-ray in motion.

When to Seek Medical Help

  • If you are vomiting blood, call 911 immediately for help. You may have a tear in the cardiac sphincter and need assistance immediately.
  • If you have persistent vomiting with coughing and sneezing, you may have inhaled gastric contents and need medical help right away.
  • If you have black tarry stools, it is possible you have developed a bleeding stomach ulcer and need medical attention
  • If your acid reflux medications are making the GERD worsen, call your doctor and discontinue the medication



Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Acid Reflux

If you are experiencing mild symptoms, and have discussed it with your physician, certain changes in your diet and exercise program can correct the condition. Some of these may be:

  • Weight loss
  • Avoid foods that trigger the acid reflux and pain
  • Don't eat one hour before bedtime and don't lay down after a meal
  • Take your medication for acid reflux as instructed by a healthcare provider
  • Use antacids sparingly, as they can cause PH changes in the body
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Avoid overeating or large meals at one sitting


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    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks LL, so nice to see you! I appreciate your comments.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

      This is such useful information. I know quite a few people with GERD and fortunately, once they get on the correct medication, their symptoms and distress passes.

      I suspect some people who read this hub will recognize their own symptoms and seek help.

      Voted up and Sharing.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Rajan, what a wonderful thing to have you here at my hub! I am so glad you liked it and as always, am looking forward to more of yours!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      An wonderful hub on a very important and common condition these days. With our stressful lifestyle, most of us at some point suffer from hyperacidity or heart burn . It is indeed very necessary to check this condition from flaring up into something very serious. Thanks for this hub.

      Voting this up/useful and shared.

    • eHealer profile image
      Author

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Epigramman, you are such a talented poet and your opinion means a lot to me. I hope my writing helps people, and will continue to try to accomplish that. Thanks for your support, and I will see you soon on the Hubs!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Hello my cherished friend and esteemed colleague that you are - and it's currently 7:12pm lake erie time ontario canada and a pleasant fall day here by the lake.

      As I have said to you a few times before - you provide such an essential service here with your world class writing - this is the real deal and you are literally improving and saving people's lives with your valued input in each hub that you write - hubravo to you and I am sending warm wishes and good energy and please keep up this great work - you really do define this genre - and you do it so well.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Eddy, I appreciate your comments and am so glad you find it useful. Always nice to see you.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Interesting and so useful .

      I am saving for future reference.

      Eddy.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great Brett, everyone is different and you have to find what works for you. Thanks for the support, and you are a smart person to figure it out!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 4 years ago from Thailand

      Good advice. Unfortunately I experienced this last year. Thankfully a change to eating habbits seems to have almost cured it. I avoid fatty foods, especially in the evening. I also make sure to leave 4 hours between meals (no snacking, to allow the stomach to rest) and avoid eating for 2 hours before bed.

      Shared, up, useful and pinned.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Novel Treasure, I appreciate your support and value your comments. Thanks!

    • Novel Treasure profile image

      Novel Treasure 4 years ago from US

      I like how in depth you went into the issues and the medicines for the condition. Many times you see just a generic overview of a condition, but this was well thought out and well defined. Great hub. Voted up!

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Glimmer, stay healthy and thanks for the support. It has been my experience that people respond in so many different ways when they have their gallbladder removed. Thanks for sharing!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Interesting hub. I always seem to have stomach problems since I had my gallbladder out 5 years ago. I definitely need to watch my diet. Another informative hub!

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks WritingOwl, I am so glad it went away! Pregnancy is really hard on a women's body and most people don't realize it until it's over. Thanks for your support!

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 4 years ago from Ireland

      Interesting Hub. During both of my pregnancies I was plagued by Acid Reflux or Heartburn as it is usually known as here in Ireland. I used to drink bottles of a gross pink, slimy drink called Gaviscon, it got rid of the Acid Reflux but it left a bad taste in my mouth. Thankfully after my pregnancies it was instantly gone again, rarely get it now unless I eat or drink a bit too much or a food containing wheat etc.,