Acid Reflux Types

Published: February 6, 2012

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Gastroesophageal Reflux

The gastroesophageal reflux is a normal physical function that occurs frequently throughout the day - as often as once every hour. For people with chronic acid reflux, this function does not occur normally.

A malfunctioning sphincter is the primary cause of acid reflux. Normally, when a person swallows, the lower esophageal sphincter will become relaxed to facilitate the flowing of liquid and chewed food into the stomach. Once the contents enter the stomach, the sphincter will immediately close.

For people with acid reflux, the sphincter performs abnormally. It may not relax or it may be weak and unable to close completely. As a result, stomach acid and food particles may flow backwards into the esophagus, causing painful heartburn and swelling within the intestinal lining. Because of the constant backflow of stomach acid, over time, the esophagus could become damaged. Eventually, people with long-term damage may experience bleeding and problems breathing.

No matter the type of acid reflux, people tend to experience frequent heartburn that is accompanied by a sour taste. People with acid reflux may also experience problems swallowing as well as a sore throat. If you have acid reflux, you may, at times, feel like you have a lump or blockage in your throat.

Supine & Upright Acid Reflux

There are two types of acid reflux: supine acid reflux and upright acid reflux. With supine acid reflux, symptoms are most prevalent at night when a person is lying down, and with upright acid reflux, symptoms are most prevalent throughout the day when a person is sitting up.

Both conditions produce symptoms of pain, heartburn, nausea, and regurgitation of bile. You may not realize that you are supine acid reflux if you are regurgitating stomach acid in your sleep.

Of the two, supine acid reflux can cause the most damage. This is because the stomach acid flows to the esophagus twice. As with all acid reflux, the bile will travel upwards. Because of the lying down (supine) position, the stomach acid will travel back downwards.

Supine acid reflux and upright acid reflux are both the result of a malfunctioning esophageal sphincter. Both conditions can result in long term damage to the stomach, sinuses, teeth, and respiratory tract. Common complications include ulcers, sinusitis, hoarseness, and tooth decay.

Most people with supine and upright acid reflux can keep symptoms under control through a combination of over-the-counter medications and lifestyle modifications. You may need to work with a dietician, specialist, or primary care physician to find a treatment option that works for you. It is important to catch your acid reflux disorder before your symptoms progress and the damage becomes worse.

You should see a doctor immediately if you are experiencing extreme pain in the chest in addition to numbness in your jaw or arm. Sometimes, the symptoms of a heart attack can be similar to the symptoms of heartburn.

Acid Indigestion

Acid indigestion is not a form of acid reflux; however, the condition produces symptoms that are similar to acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Indigestion can last anywhere from minutes to hours and may be relieved with an antacid. In contrast to acid reflux or GERD, the result of a malfunctioning sphincter, indigestion results from a reaction to food. Typically, indigestion does not put someone at risk for long term problems such as ulcers and damaged esophageal tubes.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

GERD is a more serious and chronic form of acid reflux. Symptoms of both conditions appear identical; however, GERD can cause additional symptoms of coughing, sore throat, and problems swallowing. Stomach ulcers are other common side effects of GERD, since stomach acid is constantly traveling back and forth from the stomach to the esophagus and back.

Both children and adults can experience GERD or acid reflux, but in general, children and adults will show different symptoms. With children, it might be difficult to identify symptoms at all. Despite the symptomatic differences, the causes of acid reflux and GERD are the same for both adults and children.

Complications and symptoms of acid reflux vary from person to person. Even though the condition varies, the underlying causes are the same and include a mix of genetic, dietary, and environmental factors. Indigestion is related primarily to diet, while acid reflux and GERD are the result of a malfunctioning esophageal sphincter.

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