Dubai: A common digestive complaint by residents is heartburn, a sensation of burning chest pain or discomfort that tends to occur after eating. While it is considered normal when occasional, there is reason for worry when there are three or more episodes of heartburn and related symptoms per week.

Heartburn or Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) as it is medically referred to was one of the topics during a community health lecture at the Ismaili Centre organised by the Dubai Representative Office of The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi on September 8, 2012.

A combination of factors causes GORD including stress, smoking, being overweight or obese, consuming a high-fat diet, alcohol, coffee or chocolate. The risk increases in pregnancy or among those suffering from hiatus hernia, a condition in which a part of the stomach has squeezed through an opening in the diaphragm into the chest. GORD can affect people of all ages, including children.

Dr. Saeed Sadiq Hamid, consultant gastroenterologist and chair, Department of Medicine, from Pakistan, told Gulf News that the most important cause is the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) muscle not closing properly, allowing acid to leak out of the stomach into the oesophagus (gullet).

He said, “Heartburn is a common digestive complaint that can be treated. People should be aware of the complications associated with GORD. The excess stomach acid produced by GORD can inflame the lining of the oesophagus [condition known as oesophagitis]; lead to the formation of ulcers; and even cancer of the oesophagus.”

He advised residents to control the symptoms by making changes in their lifestyle and seeking treatment.

Dr Zeba Iftikhar Ali, assistant manager, Patient Referral at the Dubai Representative Office, told Gulf News that, “With the large Pakistani population in Dubai, many seek referral treatments at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. Heartburn is a common condition that needs more awareness.”

The health lecture also addressed symptoms and causes of Hepatitis B and C — both associated with a particular virus that can infect and damage the liver.