Irish Independent - Health & Living - - ADVICE -

GYears ago I was treated for a stom­ach ul­cer and gas­tro-oe­sophageal re­flux dis­ease (GORD) brought on by a hia­tus her­nia. I man­aged the con­di­tion by eat­ing well and avoid­ing al­co­hol since then. But now, stress, poor sleep­ing, eat­ing on the go and lots of cof­fee has brought it back. I have a burn­ing pain in the cen­tre of my ribcage, feel bloated and can only eat small amounts at a time. Since last suf­fer­ing from the con­di­tion, drugs like Motil­ium are avail­able over the counter. I was hop­ing to avoid go­ing to

my GP, and just to treat my­self un­til the pain sub­sides. How­ever, I’ve heard that GORD can cause oe­sophageal can­cer in later life if not treated prop­erly. Should I be tak­ing the prob­lem more se­ri­ously? ORD oc­curs when acid that is nor­mally con­tained in the stom­ach man­ages to flow up­wards into the tube which car­ries food from the mouth to the stom­ach, the oe­soph­a­gus. The lin­ing of the stom­ach is de­signed to cope with an acidic en­vi­ron­ment but the lin­ing of the oe­soph­a­gus is not and it be­comes ir­ri­tated and in­flamed lead­ing to dis­com­fort.

Symp­toms in­clude sore­ness or burn­ing in the throat or chest, a sen­sa­tion of acid com­ing back into the mouth or sore­ness in the up­per ab­domen. Symp­toms com­monly oc­cur when ly­ing or stoop­ing and may be food re­lated.

In a healthy in­di­vid­ual, there is a band of mus­cle at the bot­tom of the oe­soph­a­gus that stays closed un­less al­low­ing the pas­sage of food. This sphinc­ter keeps acid in the stom­ach where it should be. If there is pres­sure in the ab­domen, such as with preg­nancy and obe­sity, the sheer pres­sure from the lower ab­domen into the chest can push acid back up.

Over time acid can dam­age the lin­ing of the oe­soph­a­gus lead­ing to ero­sion (Barrett’s oe­soph­a­gus). This chronic ir­ri­ta­tion can per­ma­nently dam­age the lin­ing of the oe­soph­a­gus over time and can in­crease the risk of can­cer of the lower part of the oe­soph­a­gus. Those who have been di­ag­nosed with Barrett’s oe­soph­a­gus re­quire reg­u­lar sur­veil­lance to watch for chang­ing po­ten­tially can­cer­ous cells. Chronic gas­tric ir­ri­ta­tion can re­sult in ul­cers and po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing bleed­ing into the gut. Chronic gas­tri­tis is also as­so­ci­ated with the de­vel­op­ment of can­cer of the stom­ach.

For adults, there are a num­ber of over-the-counter reme­dies that may help neu­tralise or block acid in the stom­ach. If symp­toms are oc­cur­ring in­ter­mit­tently they are worth try­ing. How­ever, those with pro­longed symp­toms (more than a month), any­one aged over 55, those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing

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