Sufferers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as acid reflux or GERD) will probably wish to know what causes this condition and what mechanisms are involved.
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There is a circular, ring-like muscle between the stomach and the lower part of the esophageal channel that, basically, serves as a valve. It opens and closes the lower end of the esophagus. When it is contracted, liquid cannot go from the esophagus to the stomach and vice versa. This muscle is the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). If it looses the tone or weakens, contents of stomach, which contain hydrochloric acid, can reflux into the esophagus.
Over fifty percent of people troubled by GERD suffer from abnormal muscle or nerve function in the stomach. This causes too slow digestion of food and stomach acid which leads to delayed emptying of stomach contents in the intestines. Pressure in the stomach is thus increased, which leads to acid reflux if LES function is compromised.
Various drugs can increase the risk of GERD. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, calcium channel blockers (for treatment of elevated blood pressure and angina), dopamine, sedatives, potassium, antibiotics, iron pills, beta andrenergic agonists (for asthma and obstructive lung diseases) and anticholinergics (for urinary tract disorders, glaucoma and allergies).
Asthma and GERD commonly go hand in hand, as over fifty percent of asthmatics also have GERD, but whether GERD is consequence or cause of respiratory problems is still uncertain.
It is opinion of some experts that coughing connected with asthmatic attacks alters chest pressure, which causes reflux. Also, some medications used in treatment of asthma, which are used to dilate the airways, can also cause relaxation of lower esophageal sphincter.
Hormones connected with pregnancy, such as progesterone, relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Pressure on the stomach exerted by developing also increases risk of the reflux. GERD is common complication in pregnant women.
Gastroparesis, delayed stomach emptying common in persons with Type 2 diabetes can also cause GERD by increasing the stomach pressure.
It has been noted that people who suffer from GERD often have abnormal muscle action in esophagus. Connection between the two has still not been established.
Hiatal hernia (condition where part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm, as the hole through which the esophagus passes through diaphragm becomes too large to prevent it) can also impair LES function and lead to reflux.