Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) occurs when stomach acid leaks from the stomach and moves up into the oesophagus (food pipe). This is also known as ‘reflux’. Acid refluxing into the oesophagus is a normal bodily function, but it becomes GORD when it leads to physical complications or symptoms which impact on a person’s wellbeing or quality of life.
GORD can affect everyone, even children, but mostly affects adults aged 40 and over. If you are worried about a child or infant with reflux symptoms then read The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne fact sheet on reflux.
The most common symptoms of GORD include:
- heartburn - a feeling of burning rising up from the stomach or lower chest or a burning chest pain or discomfort after eating
- regurgitation – when stomach acids comes back up into your mouth causing an unpleasant sour taste
- pain when swallowing and difficulty swallowing.
Check your symptoms with healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
Doctors believe there are a combination of factors that cause GORD, but the most important is that the muscle around the bottom of the oesophagus, which helps to keep the contents of the stomach from rising back up the oesophagus, is not working properly. This muscle is known as the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS).
While there can be some serious complications, the outlook for GORD is mostly good. Many people experience occasional episodes of GORD, while others have recurring symptoms that may need attention.
Many people can control their symptoms without the need for medicines. Those who do need medicines usually find they ease their symptoms.
Treatments for GORD aim to:
- relieve symptoms
- reduce the risk of complications
- improve quality of life
- heal any ulcers in the oesophagus.
Last reviewed: November 2016