Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a chronic condition which results in damage to the lining of the oesophagus as a result of irritating stomach acid being refluxed from the stomach into the oesophagus. It commonly presents as recurrent heartburn and can lead to a condition known as Barrett oesophagus, which needs to be closely monitored. Once diagnosed, it can be well managed with medications and in treatment resistant cases, surgery is an option.
GORD commonly causes heartburn which is a burning sensation in the centre of the chest below the breastbone. In some people, the reflux can spread up into the throat and cause discomfort (especially when bending over or lying down). This can sometimes cause a persistent cough due to the throat irritation from stomach acid reflux. The oesophagus can become inflamed and cause oesophagitis, which can be painful. A feeling of being bloated and sick can also occur. Sometimes there can be difficulty swallowing and it can be painful. Halitosis (bad breath), tooth decay and gum disease can also occur as a result of GERD.
GORD is generally caused by a weakening of the lower oesophageal sphincter. This sphincter is a circular piece of muscle that closes to prevent the reflux of acid into the oesophagus and throat. If this is weakened, reflux can occur. There are risk factors which increase the likelihood of developing GERD and these include obesity, smoking, excess alcohol, coffee and/or chocolate consumption, hiatus hernia, specific drugs, pregnancy and stress. It is thought that there could be a genetic link which increases the chance of developing GERD, especially if there is a strong family history.
Managing risk factors for GORD can sometimes be enough to alleviate symptoms. Reducing irritation to the stomach, eating smaller meals, reducing stress levels and increasing the number of pillows at night may also help. Medications are available from the Doctor and over the counter from the pharmacist which can help with GORD. Antacids (Rennie), alginates (Gaviscon), H2-receptor antagonists (ranitidine) and PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors - omeprazole) all work in different ways to either reduce the acidity of the stomach acid, protect the lining of the stomach and esophagus or by reducing the amount of acid that is produced by the stomach. If severe and recurrent GERD, Doctors may recommend surgery. There are many procedures that are available which aim to increase the tightness of the lower oesophageal sphincter. In severe cases, Doctors need to carefully monitor the lining of the oesophagus through endoscopies (camera tests). This is important as chronic exposure to the stomach acid over many years can change the type of cells at the bottom of the oesophagus into a different type of abnormal cell, which can increase the chance of developing cancer.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Doctify Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. In the event of an emergency, please call 999 for immediate assistance.