Brisbane Reflux Specialist
What is Reflux?
Most people have heard of reflux or heartburn – that sickly feeling in the chest when stomach acid refluxes up into the oesophagus. Whilst for many this is a mild inconvenience that happens occasionally and disappears as quickly as it appeared, for others it can be a considerable problem.
Reflux itself is caused by stomach acid leaking up from the stomach past the lower oesophageal sphincter, the structure normally keeping the contents of the stomach down. When this event causes symptoms more than twice a week, it becomes a condition known as GORD – Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease.
The oesophagus, connecting the throat to the stomach, normally can handle this happening not infrequently. With GORD however, the strong stomach contents of acid and enzymes come in contact with the oesophagus far more often than the oesophagus can handle.
This causes a few distinct symptoms that most people have experienced at least once in their lives:
- Heartburn – the burning discomfort from the acid in the oesophagus, which can be felt as chest pain as well.
- Regurgitation – the uncomfortable feeling and taste of acid coming up into your mouth.
- Pain on swallowing and difficulty swallowing, from acid irritating the oesophagus.
However, there are problems caused by GORD that are not so obvious at first:
- Erosive oesophagitis – damage to the lining of the oesophagus, causing it to erode away and for ulcers to form. This can progress to -
- Barrett’s Oesophagus – the body trying to fix this damage with new cells growing in the damaged layer. These cells are more like stomach cells and carry a risk of turning into cancerous cells.
- Oesophageal adenocarcinoma – a type of cancer that people suffering from GORD are 17 times more likely to develop. People with severe symptoms over many years are over 40 times more likely to develop this cancer than those not suffering from GORD.
Do I have GORD?
Generally speaking, it is relatively easy to notice when you are suffering from GORD. On a basic level, if you are suffering from heartburn or reflux more than twice a week, you meet the criteria for a diagnosis.
Most diseases have a wide range of severities – anything from mild symptoms to debilitating chronic illness. GORD is no exception, and the range of symptoms can be from mild heartburn a few times a week to severe oesophageal damage and higher cancer risk.
However, unlike some conditions, GORD can exist in ‘silent’ forms. A condition known as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) can occur from the same underlying process as GORD, without the symptoms of reflux.
This condition does not always cause heartburn but involves stomach acids and enzymes spilling up to the level of the throat and causing damage both to the throat and the vocal cords. Symptoms can also include a dry cough, a hoarse voice or the feeling of a lump at the back of the throat. In severe cases, breathing difficulties can result from this condition.
GORD can be diagnosed by a specialist gastroenterologist, such as Dr Nanda. Additional tests may be taken to confirm the diagnosis if there is doubt or other likely causes, such as acidity level testing of liquids in the oesophagus and lower throat, or endoscopy looking for damage to the oesophagus related to severe or chronic reflux.
Seeking the best care early on helps achieve the best long-term outcomes. If you suspect you may have GORD, LPR or other gastroenterological problem, Dr Nanda is accessible in both Brisbane and now in Central Queensland via Rockhampton.
Reflux Treatment Options
As GORD can exist in many forms and levels of severity, specialist care from a highly qualified gastroenterologist is the most reliable way to ensure the best possible diagnosis, treatment and long-term outcomes.
Consulting as a Staff Specialist Gastroenterologist at Mater Hospital Brisbane and QE II Jubilee Hospital, Dr Nanda has a specialist interest in gastroenterological conditions including GORD..
Even with mild forms of GORD, Dr Nanda can guide you on the best non-medical, medical and surgical options to treat you in your unique situation. Lifestyle changes, diet and other targeted approaches can be taken first in many cases, and with the experience of a specialist consultant Dr Nanda can tailor this approach as to what will work best for you.
A wide variety of medications are available for treatment of GORD and LPR, as well as the option of surgical intervention. These start with antacids that neutralise the acid in the oesophagus and work up to medications specifically targeting acid production.
In some cases, symptoms and complications are severe enough to indicate surgical intervention. Procedures such as fundoplication where the oesophageal sphincter is tightened to reduce acid overflow can be performed.
All surgery carries a degree of risk, so having a qualified surgeon perform this operation improves the chance of a good outcome.
Dr Nanda has a specialist interest in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, having qualifications from the Gastroenterological Society of Australia, the American Gastroenterological Association, the Royal Australian College of Physicians and the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy as well as being senior lecturer at the University of Queensland.
For advanced GORD and reflux specialist care, evidence-based treatment and long-term support, book an appointment with Dr Nanda today.
Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM-4:30 PM
Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM-4:30 PM