Acid Reflux: Causes and Treatment Options
It’s normal for most people to have occasional heartburn or acid reflux, but chronic reflux (occurring more than twice a week) may indicate that you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s a relatively common condition, affecting one in five Americans. It’s important to identify and treat acid reflux early in order to prevent complications from reflux such as progressive narrowing of the esophagus from inflammation or even the development of esophageal cancer.
What causes acid reflux?
When the valve between the esophagus and the stomach doesn’t close when it should, stomach acid comes back up into the esophagus. This can cause varying symptoms such as:
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Bad Breath or an “Acid Taste” in your mouth
Over time, chronic acid reflux causes damage to the esophagus.
What treatment options are available for acid reflux?
Over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, and surgery can all be effective treatments for acid reflux, depending on individual cases.
Over-the-counter antacids can neutralize stomach acid and reduce irritation and symptoms of acid reflux. These are not long term solutions. They only serve as a temporary “band-aid” for symptoms.
H2 Blockers and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI)
These medications are often used to treat chronic acid reflux. These drugs ultimately lead to less acid in the stomach and, as a result, less acid reflux. They are available over the counter or by prescription from a physician. If used for more than 14 days over the counter then a physician should be consulted because long term use is associated with several potential side effects. Your physician can help you determine appropriate treatment.
Acid reflux surgeries
Surgical Therapy is “THE” definitive treatment for acid reflux. Many patients choose this option to avoid long-term damage caused by chronic acid reflux and to avoid relying on medications with potential side effects. Surgery is also chosen when medications are not enough to control symptoms.
- The most common acid reflux procedures, Nissen or Toupet fundoplications are minimally invasive surgeries that involve the wrapping the fundus section of the stomach around the esophagus to reinforce the valve.
- The Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF) procedure is a new and effective treatment, especially when combined with a hiatal hernia repair. The TIF procedure reconstructs the dysfunctional esophageal valve using an endoscope.
- The LINX procedure is a minimally invasive surgery in which a surgeon places a small, flexible magnetic band around the base on the esophagus. LINX expands to allow food or liquid through, but the magnetic band prevents acid from going back up into the esophagus.
- Since excess weight puts pressure on the stomach and esophageal valve, weight loss can help reduce acid reflux. Bariatric Surgery supports weight loss by lowering a patient’s appetite and changing how the body metabolizes food.