What is Acid Reflux?

Did you know1 in 5 adults suffer from acid reflux once a week.
When people talk about acid reflux (or GORD), the frequency and severity of their symptoms can vary considerably. For many, it can be a mild attack of heartburn that passes quickly or can be easily treated with over the counter remedies. For others, it is a debilitating disease that dramatically reduces their quality of life.


What causes Acid Reflux?

The cause of acid reflux (also known as GERD or GORD) is a weak Lower Oesophageal Sphincter (LOS) which can be defective from birth or become weakened over a period of time. Obesity, smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise are all potential contributory factors.

Normally the LOS serves as a protective barrier between the oesophagus and stomach but when the LOS loses its muscular tone, stomach acids and bile flow back up (reflux) into the oesophagus. Unlike the stomach, the lining of the oesophagus does not have a protective barrier and the acid and gastric contents cause irritation, inflammation (oesophagitis), ulcerations and strictures.

Diagram of a competent lower oesophageal sphincter

Diagram of a defective lower oesophageal sphincter with acid reflux in progress

 


What are the symptoms of Acid Reflux?

The symptoms of Acid Reflux or GORD depend on the severity of the condition and reflux frequency. Patients can experience a variety of symptoms including:

  • Symptoms of acid reflux (GORD)Heartburn and chest pain
  • Regurgitation – which can lead to tooth decay
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic cough
  • Sore throat and damage to voice box/ laryngitis
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Asthma – reflux is the cause of 40% of adult onset asthma

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