Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)
What is GORD?
The sphincter (a special type of muscle) between your oesophagus and your stomach is normally closed. This opens to allow food to pass into your stomach, but remains closed at other times to keep acid in the stomach.
If this sphincter is loose or opens at the wrong time, acid can flow back into the oesophagus, a condition known as GORD.
Whilst the stomach has a protective lining of mucous, the oesophagus does not. Acid from the stomach can damage or burn the oesophagus. Untreated, GORD may lead to oesophageal ulcers, bleeding, and scarring.
What symptoms does GORD cause?
Whilst many cases of GORD are fairly asymptomatic, it can cause a variety of symptoms, including heartburn, regurgitation or retching. It may leave a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. Other symptoms include a chronic cough, damage to the teeth, altered voice, and sinusitis.
How is GORD diagnosed?
The diagnosis is made by your gastroenterologist, sometimes on the basis of the history alone, but in some cases, additional investigations may be required.
An endoscopy may be done to see if the sphincter is working properly, and to assess for damage to the oesophagus. Scans taken following the swallowing of contrast may also be helpful, as may tests to determine the level of acid in the oesophagus.
How is GORD treated?
The goals of treatment are to manage your symptoms, treat any damage to the oesophagus, and prevent further damage from occurring.
Treating the symptoms often involves lifestyle changes (including diet, resting habits, and avoidance of tight clothes).
Over-the-counter antacids can assist to neutralize stomach acid and relieve symptoms, but sometimes other medications will be prescribed to reduce stomach acid production or increase stomach emptying.