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Heartburn is a condition in which the acids from the stomach enter the esophagus causing severe discomfort. Approximately forty percent of people in the US suffer from this problem. Other symptoms include burning sensation in the throat, feeling of fullness and gas in the stomach, cheat pain, flushed look on the face, feeling feverish or experiencing cold sweat, pain in the esophagus, uncontrolled body functioning especially passage of gas and sour taste in one’s mouth.
When acid reflux is accompanied by pain the condition is referred to as gastro-esophageal reflux. This is caused by recurring exposure of the lower and upper airways to acidic content from the stomach. This extended exposure can damage the trachea, larynx, pharynx or esophagus. The passage of the acid is more probable while lying flat. The heartburn should be treated and controlled in order to avoid complications in the future like poor life quality.
The regions affected by heartburn can be divided in to upper and lower air-ways and digestive tract.
The internal organ most affected by acid from the stomach is the esophagus. This symptom is called heartburn. The closeness to the stomach makes it most vulnerable causing damage to the epithelial tissue. Conditions such as Barrett’s esophagus, strictures or carcinoma can result. Approximately 18 percent of the people suffering from neck and head symptoms also develop inflammation in the esophagus.
The respiratory system situated in front of esophagus leads to the lungs and comprises larynx, pharynx and trachea. Air travels through this system to reach the lungs. Reverse flow of acidic content from the stomach causes the contents to enter the respiratory system, and this, in turn ends up damaging the airways.
Pharynx connects the respiratory system and digestive system. Once acidic content flows from the stomach into the pharynx, it easily reaches the upper airways. This can cause epiglottis, persistent pharyngitis, or Zenker’s diverticulum.
Larynx is located beneath the pharynx and is the beginning of lower airways. This holds the vocal cord. Damage by acidic contents to the lower portion of the digestive system can cause laryngitis, changes in the voice, tumor or ulcer in vocal cord, spasms or vocal disorders.
Trachea is the lowest part of the airways connecting to the lungs. Reflux of acidic contents can cause severe damage. The contents enter the esophagus from the stomach, travel through ororpharynx and then to the trachea. Some of the symptoms of this condition are asthmatic symptoms; sever cough and stenosis of the trachea. In infants, this reflux is termed as SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is fatal.
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