Acid reflux develops when stomach contents flow up into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter is a muscle that opens to let food into the stomach and closes to keep digestive acids and food inside the stomach. The backward movement of stomach contents occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter is weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t.
Acid reflux causes symptoms such as:
Acid reflux can progress to become gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When you have GERD, stomach acid irritates the lining of your esophagus, causing inflammation and leading to complications such as an esophageal ulcer, esophageal narrowing, respiratory problems, and precancerous changes.
First-line treatment for acid reflux consists of medications:
Over-the-counter antacids neutralize stomach acid, which provides quick relief for acid reflux symptoms. However, antacids can’t heal the esophagus or stop acid reflux.
Medications in this group reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach for up to 12 hours. They’re available over the counter and in prescription strength.
Proton pump inhibitors
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) also block acid production but they’re stronger than H2 blockers, which gives the esophagus more time to heal. PPIs are available over the counter and with a prescription. Long-term use may increase your risk for bone fractures and micronutrient deficiencies, so consult your doctor before taking PPIs longer than is recommended on the label.
Surgery is a solution for acid reflux if your symptoms continue in spite of medication, they occur often, or you can’t tolerate long-term use of medications. Before deciding about surgical repair, Dr. Conron performs an upper GI endoscopy. Using the camera on the end of a narrow, flexible endoscope, he gets a close look at your esophagus and stomach and can take biopsies, if needed.
Surgical options to stop acid reflux include:
Laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication
Using a laparoscope that’s gently lowered through your esophagus, your surgeon at General Surgical Care can sew the top of your stomach around your esophagus. This strengthens the lower esophageal sphincter and stops acid reflux.
The Linx is a ring of tiny magnetic titanium beads that’s wrapped around the junction where the esophagus enters the stomach. The magnetic attraction between the beads reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter, while allowing food to pass through.
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