Dec 08, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Marissa Villasenor

President Barack Obama was taken to the hospital this weekend for a sore throat, but tests revealed the sore throat was consistent with acid reflux.

As a precaution, the president, 53, underwent a CT scan to check the inflamed tissue in his throat. According to Obama’s physician, Captain Ronny Jackson, “the president’s symptoms are consistent with soft tissue inflammation related to acid reflux and will be treated accordingly,” he said in a written statement released by the White House

Acid reflux is a condition in which the stomach contents flow back from the stomach into the esophagus, causing symptoms as heartburn and sore throat.

“When the acid refluxes or backflows into the esophagus it causes heartburn,” says Russell Vinik, MD, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah. “When the reflux reaches the top of the esophagus, it will cause inflammation and pain in the back of our throats.”

There are many risk factors for acid reflux, includingsmoking, use of alcohol and hiatal hernia. President Obama is a former smoker. Most people respond to lifestyle changes and medicines, although many patients need to continue on medication to control their symptoms.

The two most effective lifestyle modifications are weight loss in overweight individuals and elevating your head while sleeping says Vinik. He also recommends you see your doctor if swallowing becomes difficult or painful, or if you notice bleeding, which may present itself in dark stool.

Longstanding reflux does put a person at risk for esophageal cancer. “This is why it is important to see a doctor,” say Vinik. “A simple endoscopy can signal a physician to damage or signs of cancer.” In most cases, the body will heal itself.

Marissa Villasenor

Marissa Villasenor is a Public Relations Specialist in the Office of Public Affairs at University of Utah Health Care.

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