Heartburn and acid reflux disease are common problems affecting women of all ages. The problem develops when acid in the stomach backs up into the esophagus. There is a muscle known as the diaphragm that separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. When you eat or drink, the food goes from the mouth down the esophagus, through the diaphragm and into the stomach. Eating too fast and too much causes the esophagus to distend, which over time stretches the opening in the diaphragm. This causes a widening of the diaphragm muscle opening known as a hiatal hernia. This can lead to the symptom of heartburn.
Obesity is a contributing factor to causing a hiatal hernia since the increase in weight on the abdomen pushes on the stomach and causes the acid to back up. Pregnancy has a similar effect and is the major factor why this condition is more frequent in women. Genetics is another common cause. Other dietary issues that increase the cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease, know as GERD, are caffeine in coffee and sodas and nicotine from tobacco. Heartburn, GERD, reflux and hiatal hernia are similar names for the same condition.
The treatment is initially medication taken by mouth. Some of the common medications prescribed are Tagament, Zantac, Pepcid, Prilosec, and Protonix, among others. If medications do not control the heartburn, surgery may be necessary. Twenty years ago, the surgery was done using a large incision in the upper abdomen. It was painful and resulted in a four to six week recovery. In the 1990s, laparoscopic surgery was introduced and the surgical recovery was dramatically shortened. However, at the same time, newer medications came on the market which were better able to control the symptoms of heartburn and problems associated with GERD.
Then in early 2000, biologic surgical mesh was introduced and was added to repair the tear in the diaphragmatic muscle in patients with GERD. The biologic mesh enhanced the operation and made the long-term results better. As the body recognizes the material as natural tissue, the graft communicates with the body, signaling surrounding tissue to grow across the scaffold.