ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Reflux Causes and Treatment

Updated on January 20, 2010

The esophagus runs from the throat to the stomach behind your chest. At its lower end, it passes through a sheet of muscle (diaphragm) which separates the chest from the abdomen. At the point where it passes through the diaphragm, there is a muscle ring which opens when you swallow food but remains closed at other times to prevent the concentrated hydrochloric acid in the stomach from coming back up (refluxing) into the esophagus when lying down or bending over.

The cells lining the inside of the stomach are acid-resistant, but those lining the esophagus are not. If acid (along with food and other digestive juices) is able to flow back up into the esophagus, the acid will attack the unprotected cells and can cause inflammation, ulceration, pain and scarring. This is known as GERD, or reflux gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Some babies are unlucky enough to have a defect or temporary weakness in the muscle ring at the bottom of the esophagus. The reflux of acid into the esophagus causes considerable pain to the infant. Most children will grow out of the problem, but medication must be given in the meantime to prevent the burning and pain. This is usually in the form of a mixture which is given after every feed. More sophisticated treatments are available for the intractable cases. It is important that the baby is fed in an upright position and is not allowed to lie down flat after the feed.

In adults, factors such as obesity, smoking, overeating, a hiatus hernia, rapid eating, alcohol, stress and anxiety, and poor posture may cause the excessive production of acid in the stomach and/or slackness in the muscle ring. The patient experiences a burning sensation behind the breast bone, a bitter taste on the back of the tongue and burping as gas escapes easily from the stomach. It is often worse at night after a large meal when the patient is lying down, as it is then easier for the acid to flow up out of the stomach.

If the attacks of acid reflux are intermittent and mild, the lower end of the esophagus can recover between each episode, but if the attacks are regular or constant, the pain will become more severe, and significant damage may occur to the area. If ulcers form, they may erode down to a vein or artery, and severe bleeding may occur that in extreme cases may be life-threatening. The other main complication is scarring and narrowing of the lower end of the esophagus to the point where it may be difficult, or even impossible, to swallow food. Long before these advance stages, most patients have sought medical assistance for the problem.

When reflux gastroesophageal reflux disease is suspected, it will be proved by either gastroscopy, in which a flexible tube is passed down into the stomach, and through which a doctor can see exactly what is happening; or by a barium meal, in which a special fluid is swallowed, and its passage into the stomach (and sometimes its reflux back up into the esophagus) can be followed by a series of X-rays.

Treatment will involve the appropriate advice with regard to losing weight, propping up the head of the bed, having the main meal in the middle of the day, avoiding bending and heavy lifting, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol (nicotine and alcohol relax the muscle ring). Medication can be given to reduce the acid concentration in the stomach and to act as a foam that floats on the stomach acid to protect the lower end of the esophagus. Further treatment will involve the use of medication to help empty the stomach, and reduce acid production.

Only in severe, resistant cases is it necessary to resort to quite major surgery to treat the problem. The majority of patients can be controlled if they follow a doctor's advice and use the appropriate medication.

Please Note:


  • The information provided on this page is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a registered physician or other healthcare professional.

  • The content of this page is intended only to provide a summary and general overview. Do not use this information to disregard medical advice, nor to delay seeking medical advice.

  • Be sure to consult with your doctor for a professional diagnosis and appropriate medical treatment.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)