Digestive system

Gastroesophageal reflux disease

GERD most often occurs due to a dysfunction of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS), a muscle that closes the lower oesophagus and prevents the return of gastric content to the oesophagus, oral cavity and airways. The action of stomach acids irritates the oesophagus, oral cavity and airways, which leads to problems that can impair the patient’s quality of life.

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Scientific data indicates that in the western world, symptoms of GERD occur in up to 20% – 40% of adults.

The most common typical symptoms of GERD are: heartburn and regurgitation of stomach content into the oesophagus / mouth.

A heartburn is a condition characterized by a burning sensation behind the sternum that extends to the neck, and usually occurs after meals. Regurgitation is a sudden return of a small amount of acidic gastric contents into the mouth.

Less common symptoms which may be caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease: asthma, hoarseness, chronic cough, chronic laryngitis, chest pain, damage to teeth, hiccups, excessive salivation. These symptoms are also called atypical because they do not refer directly to GERD.

Due to the constant irritation of the oesophagus mucus with the acidic gastric contents, some complications may develop in the oesophagus in the form of inflammation of the oesophagus mucus, or ulcers on the mucosa, stenosis, and changes in cell structure of the lower oesophagus called Barett’s oesophagus. The least desirable complication is the change in cell structure (Barett’s oesophagus), because the transformation of such cells into malignant ones (causing malignant disease) is 30 to 125 times more frequent than in healthy individuals with an unchanged mucosa.

The diagnosis of the disease is usually based on symptoms. If heartburn is the leading or the only symptom, it may be concluded with great certainty that the patient has GERD. Only in a small number of patients a specialist gastroenterological examination, including an endoscopic exam, is needed.

The goal of GERD treatment is primarily to cure and prevent the development of changes in the mucosa of the oesophagus, mouth and the airways, as well as complications of this disease.

Given that most patients have a milder form of the disease and no serious damage to these systems, the main goal of treating GERD is to relieve patients of symptoms that impair the quality of life and prevent the recurrence of symptoms.

Today, several groups of medications are used for the treatment of GERD: antacids (neutralizing the effects of acid), inhibitors of acid secretion (H2 antagonists, proton pump inhibitors) and prokinetics (accelerating the emptying of the oesophagus and stomach).

Those most effective and most commonly used are proton pump inhibitors. These drugs do not reduce the return of gastric contents into the oesophagus, but reduce the acidity of the contents by decreasing the irritating effect of the acidic content.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are very effective in treating GERD and are well tolerated. Treatment with PPIs is carried out for at least two months. In case of symptom recurrence after discontinuing the therapy with PPIs, it is recommended to use these drugs in one of two ways.

One way is to constantly take the minimal dose that relieves symptoms for several years. Another way is to take the drugs occasionally over a certain period after the symptoms appear. The choice between one of these long-term GERD treatment types should be left to the doctor.

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Other ailments

Ulcer disease

Ulcer disease

A peptic ulcer is an injury to the walls of the stomach, duodenum or oesophagus caused by the aggressive action of gastric juices. A typical symptom that indicates the presence of peptic ulcer disease is pain that occurs immediately after a meal (in case of gastric ulcers) or a few hours after a meal (duodenal ulcers).

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Helicobacter pylori infection

Helicobacter pylori infection

H. pylori is a spiral bacteria that can be found on the human stomach lining and is the most common cause of gastritis, a chronic inflammatory reaction of the stomach. Infection begins with the entry of bacteria into the digestive system, and if left untreated, in most patients it lasts a lifetime.

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Diarrhoea is usually caused by an imbalance in the intestinal flora or an increase in the number of pathogenic microorganisms such as rotaviruses and bacteria such as Clostridium difficile. With acute diarrhoea, therapy lasts up to several days, while in the case of chronic diarrhoea, it takes at least three weeks. This is a common problem and generally does not pose a health risk but can cause discomfort if not addressed on time.

Did you know that stress, anxiety and other psychosomatic causes can cause diarrhoea?

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