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What is acid reflux disease?

At the entrance to your stomach is a valve, which is a ring of muscle called the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS). Normally the LOS closes as soon as food passes through it. If the LOS doesn't close all the way or if it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your oesophagus. This can cause symptoms such as a burning chest pain called heartburn. If acid reflux symptoms happen more than twice a week, you have acid reflux disease, also known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

What causes acid reflux disease?

One common cause of acid reflux disease is a stomach abnormality called a hiatus hernia. This occurs when the upper part of the stomach and LOS move above the diaphragm, a muscle that separates your stomach from your chest. Normally the diaphragm helps keep acid in our stomach. But if you have a hiatus hernia, acid can move up into your oesophagus and cause symptoms of acid reflux disease.

These are other common risk factors for acid reflux disease:

  • Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist
  • Snacking close to bedtime
  • Eating certain foods such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
  • Drinking certain beverages such as alcohol, fizzy drinks, coffee or tea
  • Smoking
  • Being pregnant
  • Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxants or certain blood pressure medications.

 

What are the symptoms of acid reflux disease?

Common symptoms of acid reflux are:

  • Heartburn - a burning pain or discomfort felt behind your breastbone that may move up into your throat
  • Regurgitation - a sour or bitter-tasting acid backing up into your throat or mouth

Other possible symptoms of acid reflux disease include:

  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Dysphagia - difficulty swallowing or a sensation of food being stuck in your throat
  • Hiccups that don't let up
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness or chronic sore throat

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 28, 2013

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