Normally after swallowing, a valve between the oesophagus and the stomach, called the gastro-oesophageal valve, opens to allow fluid and food to pass into the stomach.

The valve then closes to prevent these flowing back up (refluxing) the oesophagus. In acid or gastro-oesophageal reflux (GOR), this valve is weakened or absent, allowing the acidic digestive juices from the stomach to pass into the oesophagus which is not designed to handle an acidic environment.

In the USA, over 18 million people suffer from GOR and more than a quarter of these use anti-acid medication at least three times a month. Consequently medical therapy for GOR is costly - an estimated $9 billion is spent in the USA every year alone due to GOR with $5.8 billion spent on anti-acid medications (higher than for all other gastrointestinal disorders). The situation is also mirrored within Europe including the United Kingdom where GOR has assumed increasing prominence due to the treatment costs involved.

Symptoms of GOR are common:

  • Up to 44% of adults suffer heartburn and/or acid reflux at least monthly
  • 20% have symptoms on a weekly basis
  • 7% have daily symptoms

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The main symptoms of GOR include:

  • heartburn
  • chest discomfort
  • regurgitation
  • choking
  • an acidic taste in the mouth
  • cough
  • hoarse voice

GOR significantly reduces quality of life scores and is rated at least as bad as:

  • mild heart failure, angina and peptic ulceration

GOR sufferers are at increased risk of developing complications including:

  • inflammation
  • ulceration
  • strictures
  • Barrett's oesophagus
  • oesophageal cancer
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