Reflux Esophagitis Definition, Symptoms and Treatment

Reflux esophagitis causes burning in the chest, abdominal pain, and hoarseness, and can lead to ulcers and preneoplastic changes. Changing habits is the first step in preventing disease.

Reflux esophagitis (GERD) is a disease influenced by many factors such as diet, weight, and even stress. Due to these triggers, the prevalence has increased significantly in recent years. In this article, we will look at the definition, symptoms, and treatment of reflux esophagitis.

Almost everyone has experienced acid reflux at least once in their lifetime. In this article, we will explain the symptoms and treatment of reflux esophagitis.

What is reflux esophagitis?

Reflux esophagitis is a disease in which gastric acid present in the stomach frequently rises into the esophagus . As mentioned earlier, almost everyone has experienced acid reflux at one time or another.

The difference between reflux esophagitis and intermittent reflux is that it occurs at least once or twice a week. According to a review published in ‘ Acta Gastroenterological Latinoamericana’, the prevalence of reflux esophagitis is 10-20% in Western countries. In Asian countries, the prevalence is much lower, probably due to factors related to diet type.

Reflux esophagitis is caused by a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter. This sphincter is actually a group of muscles that control the passage of food from the esophagus to the stomach. When this happens and acid repeatedly reaches the esophagus, it damages the mucous membrane lining the esophagus.

A study published in ‘Anales del Sistema Sanitario de Navarra’ found that the most common complication was Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is a pathology that causes a series of precancerous changes in the esophageal mucosa.

Another possible complication is esophageal ulceration. The acid continues to damage the mucous membranes, causing lesions that bleed and can complicate digestion.

reflux esophagitis esophageal ulcer
Reflux esophagitis is common in adults, with an estimated up to 20% suffering from it.

Risk factors for reflux esophagitis

This pathology is influenced by numerous factors. First of all, obesity has a great impact on reflux esophagitis, and people who eat late at night are particularly susceptible to this disease.

The same goes for people who abuse fatty foods, alcohol, or coffee. This is because alcohol or coffee are substances that increase the acid secretion in the stomach. Smoking was also recognized as a risk factor.

According to a study published in Farmacia Profesional, other important factors include drinking soda, physical exercise, and even sleeping in a specific position. Similarly, stress and pregnancy are important factors in this pathology .

Reflux esophagitis symptoms

Reflux esophagitis symptoms can be very annoying and disabling. Most of the patients suffer from a burning sensation in the throat, usually at night or after eating,  because stomach contents easily flow back into the esophagus when lying down.

Another typical symptom is chest pain and the feeling of a lump in the neck. Some people have difficulty swallowing or breathing as the disease progresses. Aphonia and a clearing cough are other common signs of this pathology.

Diagnosis of reflux esophagitis

Diagnosing reflux esophagitis is complex. It is usually symptom-based and usually begins with medication to check the patient’s progress.

After a few weeks, follow-up tests are done to see if there is still reflux and any associated lesions or complications. The main checks performed are described below.

Reflux esophagitis endoscopy

Endoscopy is an examination in which a thin, flexible tube is inserted into the body, and esophagitis endoscopy is performed through the throat. The endoscope tube is equipped with a light and an integrated camera.

You can observe the esophagus and check for inflammation or lesions. A biopsy of esophageal tissue may be taken with the same equipment and analyzed later.

esophageal manometer

An esophageal manometer measures the pressure and contractions that occur along the esophagus. In this way, muscle strength is observed and lower esophageal sphincter disorders are identified.

24-hour pH measurement (pHmetry)

A probe is inserted through the nose into the end of the esophagus or into the stomach to measure pH changes to determine whether reflux symptoms occur and how long they last.

reflux esophagitis treatment

Fortunately, advances in medicine have made it possible to treat reflux esophagitis in a variety of ways. Change certain habits first and try certain medications, which will be discussed at the next consultation.

If these measures don’t work, there are many active options that can definitively address the condition. First, a gastrocnemius fold can be performed.

Gastric bottom-fold surgery is a surgical procedure in which the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the last part of the esophagus, and the sphincter exerts more pressure to prevent acid from flowing back.

Another technique is the deployment of the LINX device, which has proven effective in a study published in ‘The International ECOS of Surgery’ . A type of magnetic ring that selectively closes the junction between the esophagus and the stomach prevents reflux but allows food to pass through.

Recommendations for reflux esophagitis

Modify certain habits that prevent disease before resorting to surgery. First of all, if obesity is the cause, weight loss is important.

Sit or stand for about 3 hours to let the food descend by gravity. If reflux occurs at night, elevate your torso with a pillow. Smoking cessation is also essential.

reflux esophagitis obesity
Dietary changes are important to control and not provoke reflux esophagitis.

Over-the-counter medications for reflux esophagitis

There are medications that are commonly used for reflux esophagitis without a prescription, such as antacids such as sodium bicarbonate. However, these substances do not solve the problem and should not be abused.

The most commonly used drugs block acid production in the stomach. Some act by inhibiting the proton pump, such as omeprazole, or act on histamine receptors in the stomach, but histamine receptors are generally used.

The problem is that long-term use of these types of drugs can cause serious side effects. It increases the risk of cancer, as explained in a study published in Revista Colombiana de Gastroenterología .

prescription drugs

Some medications, such as esomeprazole or lansoprazole , which also act as proton pump inhibitors, require a prescription. Other drugs, such as baclofen, work by strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter. Generally, the more potent the drug, the higher the risk of side effects.

Reflux esophagitis and change in habits

Reflux esophagitis is a common pathology influenced by many factors. To prevent this, obesity and eating habits have a great influence.

Also , always consult your doctor if you have any symptoms . Acid can damage the esophagus and cause serious complications.

Leave a Comment