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Acid Reflux


Acid reflux, or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), occurs when acid from the stomach leaks back up into the gullet (oesophagus). Someone who develops acid reflux or GORD may suffer with the condition for the rest of their life but treatment is available to manage the symptoms. Acid reflux symptoms commonly include a burning sensation in the chest (known as heartburn), sore throat, belching and occasional hoarseness or breathing difficulties.
Acid Reflux

In This Article
Did You Know Causes Of Acid Reflux
Symptoms Of Acid Reflux Diagnosing Acid Reflux
Related Terms

 

  • Around 20% of people in the UK suffer acid reflux once a week
  • The chances of acid reflux increase after the age of 40
  • Over 90% of heartburn can be linked to specific foods
  • Heartburn is most common among the elderly and pregnant women


The main cause of acid reflux is a weakened muscle at the lower end of the oesophagus where it meets the stomach (known as the lower oesophageal sphincter, or LOS). The LOS opens to allow food to pass through to the stomach and then closes to prevent stomach acid leaking out. When this sphincter doesn't close tightly enough, acid enters the oesophagus. The oesophagus can cope with small amounts of acid, but it doesn't have protective cells lining its walls (as with the stomach) and therefore acid causes inflammation and pain (this is known as heartburn). An inflamed oesophagus leads to a condition known as oesophagitis.

Acid reflux can also be caused by excessive pressure being placed on the stomach (through being overweight, poor posture or tight clothing). If the stomach takes longer than usual to remove stomach acid, this can also lead to GORD. Foods such as caffeine, chocolate and alcohol can relax the oesophageal sphincter and lead to acid reflux as can smoking.

Certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers and benzodiazepines (i.e. diazepam), can make acid reflux symptoms worse by relaxing the LOS. A Hiatus Hernia can also cause acid reflux - this is a condition where a small part of the stomach lining pushes through the diaphragm. Stress has also been linked to gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.


There are two main symptoms that define acid reflux disease. The first is heartburn which manifests itself as a burning feeling in the chest. This can start in the lower abdomen (stomach) and rise into the chest and onwards into the neck.
The second main symptom is acid regurgitating into the throat and mouth. This can lead to a sour taste and a sore throat which can make the voice sound hoarse. Symptoms of acid reflux are typically worse after a large meal or during the night, particularly if you sleep lying flat as acid can make its way into the oesophagus more easily.

Chronic and severe acid reflux can lead to other conditions such as Barrett's oesophagus, asthma or increase the risks of oesophageal cancer.

There is no cure for acid reflux and severe cases may require surgery to tighten the sphincter. However, for the majority of people acid reflux requires an effective management program. Relief from symptoms of acid reflux can be found from lifestyle changes, dietary changes, conventional and non-conventional therapies.


For most people, a visit to your GP will be enough to diagnose acid reflux disease (gastro-oesophageal disease) as they can evaluate your condition by asking about your symptoms.

Acid reflux disease can be confirmed by way of an endoscopy. Endoscopies are carried out by inserting a small flexible tube into the throat which passes down through the gullet and into the stomach. At the end of the tube is a camera and light source so the doctor can identify if the lining of the oesophagus has been damaged by acid. An endoscopy will also identify if the sphincter is not closing properly and rule out any other serious conditions like stomach cancer.

An endoscopy is typically carried out during an out-patient appointment while you are awake. If you are particularly distressed by the test a sedative can be given to help you relax. An endoscopy does not take very long and is a safe procedure but it can feel strange and uncomfortable.


  • Acid reflux
  • Reflux
  • Gastro-oesophageal
  • Gastro-intestinal
  • Dyspepsia
  • Heartburn
  • Oesophagitis
  • Antacids
  • Proton pump inhibitor
  • Burning
  • Chest
  • Stomach
 


 

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