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Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Diseases (GERD)

  • What is Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

    Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease. It occurs due to acid reflux, when the acid from the stomach flows back into the oesophagus (food pipe). This reflux irritates and can damage the lining of the oesophagus. It can also reach the vocal cords or even flow back into the lungs.

  • GERD usually occurs when the lower oesophageal sphincter (muscular valve between the stomach and oesophagus) is weak or faulty. A normally functioning valve controls the passage of fluid and prevents acid reflux. However, a faulty valve allows stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus.

    There is no sole cause of GERD but various risk factors contribute to the onset of GERD:

    • Certain diseases, such as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome (tumours that increase stomach acid) and scleroderma (autoimmune disease that causes heartburn and acid reflux)
    • Increased production of gastrin, a hormone that regulates production of stomach acid
    • Obesity
    • Pregnancy
    • Smoking
    • Use of certain medications
  • The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest that spreads from the stomach to the throat. Other possible symptoms of GERD include:

    • Bitter taste in the mouth due to acid regurgitation
    • Bloated tummy
    • Burping
    • Feeling of a lump in the throat
    • Hoarse voice
    • Pain and difficulty swallowing
    • Pain or discomfort in the chest
    • Persistent cough
    • Persistent sore throat
  • Various treatment options are available for GERD, depending on the severity of the condition. Your doctor will evaluate your condition and suggest the most suitable treatment, which may include:

    • Lifestyle changes to treat mild GERD symptoms:
      1. Avoid eating late
      2. Avoid food that induces acid reflux
      3. Eat smaller meals
      4. Maintain a healthy weight
      5. Quit smoking
      6. Raise your pillow
      7. Wear comfortable clothing to avoid pressure on the stomach
    • Prescription medications for moderate to severe symptoms that do not respond to lifestyle changes
    • Barrett’s oesophagus – abnormal cells in the lower oesophagus caused by long-lasting GERD, which increases the risk of oesophageal cancer
    • Swelling of vocal cords
    • Lung damage, such as in pulmonary fibrosis (damaged lung tissues) and bronchiectasis (damaged bronchial tubes)
    • Stricture (blockage) of the oesophagus caused by scar tissues that develop due to repeated ulcerations (ulcer formation)
    • Ulcers in the oesophagus caused by burns from stomach acid
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