What is reflux?
Normally, the food we eat is chewed inside the mouth, pushed to the back with the tongue and sent to the stomach via esophageous. The muscles, which surround esophageous like a circle at the end section, form lower esophageal sphincter (LES). By the contraction of these muscles, acidic stomach content is stopped from going back (reflux) to esophagous. In reflux, this barrier (sphincter) between the stomach and the esophageous does not close completely, as a result, the stomach content trespasses to esophageous. While the acidic stomach content moves towards the esophageous, it interacts with the mucosa that covers the internal walls of the tube and a reaction occurs; it resembles the burning sensation we feel when lemon juice splashes into our eyes. As a matter of fact, the burning sensation (heartburn) behind the rib cage, which we observe in some of the reflux patients, is a consequence of that. Occasional burning sensation behind the rib cage is normal. However, if it becomes chronic and starts happening more than twice a week, then reflux is a possibility and you should see your doctor. Untreated reflux might lead to significant health issues.
What needs to be done to protect from reflux?
5. Baggy attire should be preferred
6. Eating slowly and biting and chewing smaller pieces
7. Not to go to bed with a full stomach
8. Food intake must be stopped two hours before bedtime
9. Header side of the bed must be elevated 15 cm from the ground to have the bed inclined; are the recommendations.
After the diagnosis of reflux by your doctor, you should change your life style as stated above and take your medications regularly. You should stick to your follow-up visits as determined by your doctor and learn if you received the adequate amount of treatment or whether you need other treatments as well or not.
What are the complaints of patients with reflux?
The most common complaints are intermittent burning behind the rib cage, sour-spicy taste water coming to mouth, sore throat, burning, hoarseness in the mornings, dry cough, ticklish and sticky feeling in the throat, mouth and breath smell, nausea.
How is the disease diagnosed?
Patient history and the complaints are the primary guidance. Subsequently, a classical ENT examination and in addition inspection of patient’s nose, nasal cavity, tongue base, vocal cords and the esophageal inlet with the help of an instrument called flexible laryngoscope that has a camera at the tip of it, to see if there is any sign of reflux. In the wake of these exams, if the conclusion is reflux, then initially, medication treatment is started to observe the patient. Patient’s diet is organized. The following steps are explained. Usually, it is enough to get positive results by organizing the medications, diet and life style. Persistent cases might require further examination and treatment. Some cases might need to be inspected via esophageous and stomach endoscopy, biopsy, PH monitoring and manometry methods.
Are there other treatment methods besides medication?
Yes. Especially in the esophageous, depending on the reactional changes that occur due to constant interaction with the stomach acid called Barret Esophageous, surgical treatments might be considered. Fundoplication operation is the most common one among surgical treatments.