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Does Acid Reflux Get Worse With Age?

Aging is inevitable and unavoidable; the body becomes less efficient at functioning and does not seem to “work like it used to.” As you age, the tendency is that you will slowly gain weight, which contributes to acid reflux symptoms. Acid in the esophagus is neutralized by saliva, and saliva production decreases with age. Further, many medications used by the elderly cause dry mouth and decrease saliva production, compounding the problem. With increasing age, stomach emptying is slowed and further affected by medications.

Hiatal hernias, which promote acid reflux as a result of a loss of the normal function of the lower esophageal sphincter, become more common with age. A hiatal hernia occurs when the normal position of the anatomy and junction of the esophagus and stomach is lost. Ligaments that hold the stomach in its normal position become lax as you age. The diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen, has a hole in it where the esophagus passes through to reach the stomach in the abdomen. This hole can enlarge with age, enabling part of the stomach to enter the chest. The end result is a hiatal hernia.

It is important to recognize that with age, your body becomes more vulnerable to the dangers of acid reflux. With time, people are less mobile and less active; this can translate into more time spent in bed, where reflux risk is higher. Also with age, patients tend to take more medications, some of which can lead to reflux symptoms. These medications may cause direct damage to the esophagus, impair stomach emptying, decrease saliva production, cause ulcers, or relax the LES. The end result of these factors is an increase in reflux symptoms.

By Mortin - Copyright 2009
Last modification 31/12/2009

Does Acid Reflux Get Worse With Age?- References