Reflux Esophagitis

November 12, 2012

Reflux Esophagitis

Reflux esophagitis is part of the digestive system and can be affected by heartburn.

The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach, it is part of the digestive system, and it is this tube that becomes inflamed as a result of reflux esophagitis. Esophagitis is an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus – a result of the damage done by acid reflux. At the bottom of the esophagus there is a sphincter muscle which opens to allow food to pass into the stomach – it then closes almost immediately to prevent the stomach contents from going back into the esophagus. If this sphincter fails to work correctly or has any weakness acid may well reflux back into the esophagus.

Reflux esophagitis is more commonly referred to as heart burn and is generally felt as a burning sensation in the chest with a feeling of regurgitation of food to the mouth with a bitter or acidic taste.

Esophagitis means inflammation of the lining of the esophagus. Most cases of esophagitis are due to reflux of stomach acid which irritates the inside lining of the esophagus.

Causes of reflux esophagitis

Heartburn is the result of stomach acid leaking back into the esophagus and causing irritation and inflammation. This leak is generally due to a weakening of stomach muscles. Despite its name heartburn has no connection to the heart. Heartburn is easy to treat but frequently returns. Risk factors for reflux esophagitis include -

  • Smoking

  • Pregnancy

  • Excessive alcohol use

  • Eating too much or too quickly

  • Some medications such as aspirin or non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications

  • Obesity

  • Eating fatty or highly spiced foods.

Signs and symptoms

Reflux esophagitis may often occur when an individual is lying down and consequently often happens at night. Symptoms may include one or more of the following -

  • Excessive burping

  • Sour or acidic taste

  • Sore throat, hoarseness

  • Stomach pain and discomfort

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Burning sensation when swallowing hot drinks

  • A persistent cough – particularly at night

  • Gum problems

  • Bad breath

  • Severe chest pain – which can be so severe it is mistaken for a heart attack

Untreated chronic reflux esophagitis over a long period of time may cause ulcers and has also been known to cause asthma.

Treatment and prevention

Many over the counter remedies are readily available for heartburn – generally these are antacids which work to neutralize the acid and which usually take effect very quickly. Pregnant ladies should seek the advice of their medical practitioner before taking any medication. It may also be helpful to raise the head of your bed. In severe cases of heartburn surgery may be required to resolve the problem.

Prevention of heartburn should be an integral part of treatment and is easily done by simple lifestyle changes -

  • Eat less, eat slowly

  • Avoid bending or lying down after eating

  • Lose weight if necessary

  • Drink more fluids

  • Reduce caffeine intake

  • Avoid wearing restrictive clothing around chest and waist.

  • Avoid eating too many trigger foods

  • Stop smoking.

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