Understanding Acid Reflux Disease
Acid reflux disease is a chronic condition in which digestive juices from the stomach irritate the lining of the esophagus. Most people experience some heartburn or reflux on occasion. When the symptoms happen more than twice a week it is considered gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Symptoms of reflux disease include:
- Heartburn, a burning sensation that can occur from the chest up to the throat
- Feeling of a lump in the throat or beneath the breastbone
- Nausea after eating
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sour taste in mouth
- Sore throat
- Regurgitation of food or liquid
Gastroesophageal reflux disease develops as a result of a faulty valve called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. This valve sits between the stomach and the esophagus. When you swallow food, it briefly opens to permit food to pass into the stomach. It then quickly closes to prevent the backward flow of stomach acid and food particles into the esophagus and throat.
When the LES becomes damaged or dysfunctional, it may not close properly. As a result, the lining of the esophagus may become repeatedly exposed to corrosive stomach acid.
Unlike the lining of the stomach, esophageal tissue is not protected from acid.. Exposure to stomach acid will cause inflammation and irritation that can cause long-term damage, as well as severe discomfort. This can result in complications like:
- Narrowing of the esophagus
- Esophageal ulcers
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Esophageal cancer
As many as 80 percent of adult onset asthma cases can be attributed to acid reflux. Acid reflux disease can also lead to chronic coughing and pneumonia. Early intervention is the best mode of defense against complications from acid reflux disease.