Anil K. Singh, MD, FACG, Board Certified

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Acid Reflux Disease

esophagitis.jpg

Above: Erosions in the esophagus from acid reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)- the muscle connecting the esophagus with the stomach. Reflux occurs when the LES is weak and relaxes inappropriately, thus allowing the stomach contents to flow up into the esophagus.

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of GERD and usually feels like a burning chest pain beginning behind the breastbone and moving upward to both the neck and throat. Chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee alcoholic beverages, and other foods weaken the LES and therefore should be avoided.

Acid reflux can cause ulcers in the esophagus. For longstanding reflux a doctor visit may be helpful. An endoscopy can be done to see if there are ulcers or damage to the esophagus from reflux. Chronic reflux can cause narrowing of the esophagus (stricture) and may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. Medications like H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors are highly effective in controlling the symptoms and preventing complications of acid reflux.

Longstanding acid reflux can lead to scarring of esophageal lining and lead to Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a precancerous condition and can lead to esophageal cancer. Endoscopy by a gastroenterologist is needed to see if you have Barrett's esophagus.