When stomach acid leaks into the oesophagus (the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach) in people with reflux disease it can damage the sensitive lining of the oesophagus.
Continuous, untreated reflux symptoms can lead to a very poor quality of life and may also lead to serious problems, such as inflammation of the oesophagus (known as oesophagitis), which in turn can lead to the formation of ulcers.
Ulcers are open sores or lesions in the lining of the oesophagus – with the average size of a reflux-induced oesophageal ulcer just under 3cm (2.78cm).
These ulcers can bleed, causing pain and making it difficult to swallow. On rare occasions, these ulcers can cause the oesophagus to perforate causing small holes.
What are the symptoms of oesophageal ulcers?
Symptoms can include nausea, indigestion, abdominal or lower chest pain, heartburn and difficulty swallowing.
How are they diagnosed?
To get a clinical diagnosis, your doctor will listen to and discuss your symptoms and, depending on the severity, either prescribe medication or refer you for an endoscopy – when a thin, flexible tube with a camera is inserted down your throat to look at the inside of your oesophagus and stomach.
Ulcers can also be diagnosed with a barium x-ray.
How are they treated?
Because oesophageal ulcers are sensitive to even small amounts of acid, often patients are prescribed proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) to suppress stomach acid, which work by reducing the amount of acid produced by your stomach.
Antibiotics can be used to treat any infection and corticosteroid medication for reducing inflammation.
People with reflux disease often discover that there are certain things they do which make their symptoms worse. Making a few lifestyle modifications could help you successfully manage your condition. Just by making a few tweaks to your diet, many reflux sufferers can also successfully manage their symptoms.
Left untreated reflux can lead to serious health complications. Peptest is a rapid, accurate, painless and inexpensive saliva test that tells you conclusively if you are suffering from reflux disease. It measures the presence of a stomach enzyme called pepsin in a sample of saliva.
It is particularly important that you contact your GP if your symptoms include losing weight without dieting, seeing blood in your vomit or bowel movements, having trouble swallowing or feeling full soon after you’ve started eating a meal.