Conditions of the Oesophagus

Seek diagnosis so you can take the first step to treating your symptoms.

Whether your symptoms are recent, or you have been suffering for a long time, specialist healthcare is available to help reduce, or relieve the pain and discomfort you are experiencing.

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and Barrett’s oesophagus are the two most common conditions that affect the oesophagus.

Although rare, the risk of cancer of the oesophagus increases with these conditions so it is important to monitor.

GORD

The oesophagus carries food and liquid from your mouth to the stomach, mixing it with saliva on the way, to ease transportation.

GORD is a common condition that arises when the muscles at the base of the oesophagus become weaker allowing stomach contents to come back up. Subsequently, stomach acid also leaks into the oesophagus, which can cause damage over the longer-term.

Symptoms of GORD include:

  • Heartburn
  • An acidic taste in your mouth after eating, caused by stomach acid coming back up into the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Bloating
  • Excessive belching
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Inflamed oesophagus (oesophagitis)

Treatment of GORD

Often simple lifestyle changes can treat symptoms of GORD, along with over the counter medicines.

Lifestyle changes can include:

  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Avoiding foods or drinks that trigger symptoms
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Practicing relaxation
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing
  • Raising the head of your bed
  • Taking antacids, which you can buy from a pharmacy
  • Taking proton-pump inhibitors that reduce the amount of stomach acid

Surgery is an option if symptoms don’t improve by lifestyle changes and medication.

Consultation with a specialist, who can conduct the necessary diagnosis tests, is the first step to better understanding your symptoms.

Complications of GORD

There are several complications of GORD if left untreated over time. These can include:

Damage to the lining of the oesophagus can cause ulcers, which may be painful, bleed or make swallowing difficult.

Certain medications used to treat GORD can help heal ulcers. These include proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that reduce the acid levels in the stomach.

Damage to the oesophagus can also cause scarring, which in turn causes a narrowing of the pipe, known as oesophageal stricture.

Swallowing can become difficult and painful. These are procedures to widen the oesophagus again, one which uses a small balloon.

Bile reflux

Bile reflux is where the digestive liquid, bile, which is produced in the liver, spills back up to the stomach and the oesophagus. It can sometimes accompany acid reflux, which relates to the stomach acid.

Common symptoms of bile reflux include:

  • Abdominal pain, which may be severe
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Sour taste in your mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting a greenish-yellow fluid
  • Unexplained weight loss

Bile reflux can be caused by:

  • Complications following surgery, including gastric surgery, gastrectomy surgery or a gastric bypass for weight loss
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Gallbladder surgery

Bile reflux over the long term can lead to Barrett’s oesophagus and oesophageal cancer in some cases.

Barratt’s Oesophagus

With Barrett’s oesophagus, the cells in the oesophagus grow abnormally. It isn’t a cancer however the risk of cancer is increased slightly.

Acid reflux and GORD are the two main causes of this condition and around 10% of people with Acid reflux will develop Barratt’s oesophagus.

Symptoms of Barratt’s oesophagus are similar to that of GORD, particularly heartburn.

Barrett’s oesophagus is diagnosed using an endoscope, a flexible tube with a camera that can assess the oesophagus and also take tissue samples for further assessment.

Treatment options are similar to those offered for GORD, which reduce the acid production in the stomach. Other forms of treatment aim to strengthen or remove the affected area if lifestyle changes and medicine doesn’t work.

Oesophageal cancer

Barrett’s oesophagus can lead to cancer of the oesophagus in approximately 1 in every 10-20 people. This occurs within 10-20 years where symptoms persist.

Symptoms of oesophageal cancer include:

  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty to swallow
  • Persistent indigestion
  • Hoarse voice
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent cough, or coughing blood

These symptoms require specialist medical attention. As with most cancers, treatment is most successful when it is diagnosed at an early stage.

Your health is our goal

Whether your symptoms are recent or you have been suffering with a gastrointestinal condition over the longer term, specialist healthcare is available to help reduce, or relieve the pain and discomfort you are experiencing.

To arrange a consultation, please contact our specialist team.