Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Diseases (GERD)

What is Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease in which the acid from the stomach flows back (reflux) into the oesophagus (food pipe). The reflux irritates, and can sometimes damage, the lining of the oesophagus. It can also reach the vocal cords or even the lungs.

There is no identified single cause of GERD. It usually occurs when the muscular valve between the stomach and the oesophagus, known as the lower oesophageal sphincter, is weak or faulty, allowing the stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus.

Various risk factors contribute to the onset of GERD these include:

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Use of certain medications

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest spreading from the stomach to the throat. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Bitter taste in the mouth (acid regurgitation)
  • Bloated tummy
  • Burping
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Pain and difficulty in swallowing
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Persistent cough
  • Persistent sore throat

Different treatment options are available for GERD depending on the severity of the condition. Doctors will evaluate patient’s condition and suggest the most appropriate treatment:

  • Change of lifestyle to treat mild GERD symptoms, including:
    • Avoid late meals
    • Avoid food that induces acid reflux
    • Take smaller meals
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Quit smoking
    • Raise the bed head
    • Wear comfortable clothing to avoid pressure on stomach
  • Prescribed medications for moderate to severe symptoms that cannot be improved by change of lifestyle
  • Barrett’s oesophagus, characterised by prolonged GERD and an increased risk of oesophageal cancer
  • Inflammation of vocal cords
  • Lung damage, including pulmonary fibrosis and bronchiectasis
  • Stricture (blockage) of the oesophagus caused by scar tissues developing from recurrent ulcerations
  • Oesophagus ulcer caused by stomach acid reflux

Related Specialties