Occasional heartburn is not a serious condition and can be treated with
over-the-counter antacids or lifestyle changes.
If you have chronic heartburn or acid reflux, you may be suffering from
GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease) and need to see a doctor for a
professional diagnosis. You may have other symptoms like cough, sore throat
laryngitis and a tight chest.
Constant GORD can cause permanent damage to the oesophagus and even lead
Read: What is GORD?
Gastro-oesophageal reflux disorders are mainly treated by medication.
Most people find that antacids, taken before and after meals and at bedtime,
successfully control the symptoms. Antacids neutralize acids in the
gastrointestinal system. They combine with hydrochloric acid in the stomach to
form salt and water.
Antacids differ in their reaction time, neutralizing capacity,
side-effects, complications and price. Their main side-effect is that they can
change bowel habits, resulting in flatulence, constipation or diarrhoea.
If simple antacids are insufficient to control the symptoms, tablets to
reduce acid secretion will usually be tried. This often starts with drugs
called histamine antagonists. If these are unsuccessful, a class of drugs
called proton pump inhibitors are used. These are powerful and very effective.
They work by preventing the stomach from producing any acid at all, and will
also prevent the complications of gastro-oesophageal reflux.
If your symptoms don’t respond to any of the above, you may
benefit from a short-term dose of a prokinetic. Prokinetics accelerate the
emptying of the stomach, which means that there is less time for acid to
irritate your oesophagus.
Read: Causes of GORD
Certain activities make incidences of heartburn much more likely,
such as smoking. See here for a full list.
Surgery is usually only recommended as a last resort when all else
has failed, or if patients need to or want to avoid taking chronic medication.
Nowadays, however, many experts regard laparoscopic surgery as
preferable to long-term maintenance drug therapy. The argument is that
medication only treats the symptoms, and that only surgery eliminates or improves
Laparoscopicsurgery is the standard surgical treatmentof severe gastro-oesophageal refluxdisease.
Read: Diagnosing GORD
Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive and does
away with the need for large incisions. A laparoscope is a thin instrument with
a miniature video camera which transmits images to a video monitor. The surgeon
watches the video screen while using instruments that are small enough to enter
the patient's body through small incisions. Another name for laparoscopic
surgery is keyhole surgery.
The procedure involves wrapping the upper section of the stomach around
the oesophagus and fixing it in place, which tightens the lower oesophageal
sphincter and prevents any acid moving up from the stomach.
Symptoms of GORD?
Risk factors of GORD