Are you suffering from acid reflux?

More than half of all adults report having experienced the uncomfortable symptoms of acid reflux at some time in their lives, and about 20% say they have symptoms at least once a week, says Suresh Mahajan, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Southwest General.

Dr. Mahajan says reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurs when stomach contents escape upwards out of the stomach and into the esophagus, often causing a burning sensation. In the following Q & A, Dr. Mahajan explains more about reflux and what you can do about it.

Q. What are the symptoms of reflux?
A. Common symptoms include heartburn, sour regurgitation, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and hiccups. Less common symptoms include coughing, a propensity to clear your throat, hoarseness, a sensation of something sticking in the back of your throat, and asthma symptoms.

Q. What causes reflux?
A. Risk factors of reflux include being overweight, smoking, consumption of alcohol, history of irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and taking anti-inflammatory medication.

Q. Is reflux dangerous?
A. Over time, chronic reflux can result in conditions like strictures, which is scarring of the esophagus, Barrett's esophagus, which is damage to the lining of the esophagus, or even esophageal cancer.

Q. How can reflux be prevented?
A. Lifestyle modifications can help reduce the risk of reflux. Eat smaller meals, stay away from fatty and greasy foods, caffeine, chocolate, and tomato-based foods, and don't eat less than three hours before going to bed. Lose weight if you are overweight, stop smoking and avoid alcohol.

Q. What can be done about reflux?
A. Over-the-counter antacids and prescription medications can reduce reflux by neutralizing or reducing the production of stomach acid. Surgical treatments, such as tightening of the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent upward leakage of the stomach'scontents, also are available. If you have to keep taking antacid medication for more than two weeks, you may want to talk to your doctor about it.

You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Mahajan by calling 440-816-2789. His office is located at Southwest General Health Center, 7255 Old Oak Blvd., Suite C101, in Middleburg Heights.