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People often associate acid reflux disease with heartburn, a symptom that is characterized by a burning pain in the chest or discomfort that moves from the stomach to the chest, sometimes even up into the throat. However, there may be more to this chronic digestive disorder, which sometimes causes more unusual symptoms that one can imagine.

Acid reflux disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when digestive acid from the stomach and, occasionally, food content, flows back (regurgitates) into your esophagus or food pipe.

This backwash or reflux of sour fluid irritates the inner lining of your esophagus, causing GERD. Although the entrance to the stomach is normally guarded by a valve or ring of muscle (lower esophageal sphincter) that closes as soon as food passes through it, sometimes this valve does not close effectively. This allows the acid produced by your stomach to move up into your esophagus, which irritates the tissues and causes various symptoms. Acid in the mouth may cause increased production of saliva. Sometimes the acid can go to the lungs and irritate the airways, causing symptoms that resemble asthma or a respiratory infection.

What Causes Acid Reflux Disease?

There are several factors that can cause acid reflux disease, and these include:

  • Eating large meals
  • Lying down/sleeping right after a meal
  • Eating close to bedtime
  • Obesity
  • Certain foods (like citrus, tomato, mint, chocolate, garlic, onions, spicy and fatty foods
  • Certain beverages (like alcohol, coffee, tea, or carbonated drinks)
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications (like aspirin, ibuprofen, blood pressure medications)
  • Hiatus hernia

Symptoms Of Acid Reflux Disease

Aside from heartburn and regurgitation, where you feel a sour or bitter taste in your throat or mouth, you may also experience various symptoms of acid reflux disease:

  • Bloating
  • Frequent burping
  • Trouble swallowing or a feeling of food getting stuck in your throat (dysphagia)
  • Chest pain when lying down
  • Choking
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Nausea
  • Hoarseness
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Wheezing
  • Dry cough
  • Bloody/ black stools
  • Bloody vomit
  • Weight loss for no known reason

When To See A Doctor

Symptoms of GERD may improve with simple remedies such as avoiding large meals or eating before bedtime, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and avoiding stomach irritants, which include certain foods, drinks and medications. However, you should seek immediate help if you experience chest pains, especially if accompanied by shortness of breath or arm pain because these may indicate a heart attack.

Go to your doctor if you experience these symptoms frequently or if they do not improve within a few days.

Treatment Of Acid Reflux Disease

Common over-the-counter medications used for GERD include:

  • Antacids to neutralize stomach acids, such as Maalox, Mylanta, Gaviscon, and Tums.
  • Medications that reduce acid production (H-2-receptor blockers), such as famotidine (Pepcid AC), cimetidine (Tagamet HB), ranitidine (Zantac), or nizatidine (Axid AR).
  • Medications that reduce acid production and promote healing of the esophagus (proton pump inhibitors), such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec).

If your symptoms do not improve after two to three weeks of using these medications, consult your doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

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