About the disease
Reflux esophagitis is a disorder of the digestive tract, affecting the esophageal sphincter that is located between the stomach and the esophagus. It normally allows food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach in one direction. However, sufferers of reflux esophagitis frequently experience acid indigestion, when stomach acid flows backwards into the esophagus (this is also known as heartburn).
According to WebMD, hiatal hernias are the main cause of reflux esophagitis, but an unhealthy lifestyle and bad dietary habits can also lead to the development of this condition. People who exert themselves physically on a regular basis or suffer from obesity are more at risk of developing a hiatal hernia. Previous stomach surgery and bulimia can be the cause of reflux esophagitis as well.
Reflux esophagitis is most common in people over the age of 50, since the esophageal sphincter becomes weaker with age. Symptoms can come and go, and mostly depend on the severity of the condition and the kind of food consumed. Fatty or spicy foods, as well as coffee and alcohol can trigger acid indigestion. Smoking can cause the gradual weakening of the esophageal sphincter as well, which is why it is important to quit smoking after being diagnosed with reflux esophagitis. This condition can also appear during pregnancy, but it usually resolves itself once the woman has given birth.
- Chest pain
- Bitter taste in the mouth, which resembles acid
- Burning sensation, which appears right after consuming food or drink
- The feeling that food has come back up after eating
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- During a general examination, the doctor will ask the patient if they have any of the symptoms, listed above.
- The doctor will also ask the patient if they have a hiatal hernia. The patient will be asked to lie in different positions on the examining couch, to try to make the hernia a visible lump under the skin.
- The doctor will also ask the patient about their dietary habits.
- Imaging tests, such as a barium X-ray can rule out other possible conditions.
- An endoscopy (a long tube with a tiny camera on the end) allows doctors to examine the esophagus and stomach from the inside.
- Conservative treatment is usually sufficient to keep the symptoms of reflux esophagitis at bay. Antacids and similar medications neutralize acids and prevent episodes heartburn.
- Changing dietary habits and quitting drinking/ smoking will also help to prevent new instances of reflux esophagitis.
- Fundoplication is a surgical procedure that strengthens the esophageal sphincter and prevents it from weakening again by wrapping the upper curve of the stomach around the esophagus.