Don’t ignore chronic heartburn: the risks of untreated GERD are serious and can lead to multiple complications.
What You Should Know About GERD
When the one-way valve that connects your esophagus to your stomach malfunctions and does not close properly, it allows acid and stomach juices to come back up into your esophagus. You know, it’s that acidic sour liquid you get in your mouth from time to time when you try to sleep.
You have probably tried all types of OTC antacids, but it only helps for a while. GERD is not a temporary type of indigestion or heartburn, nor is it the result of your diet. It is a disease called gastroesophageal reflux disease. When it happens chronically, or more than 2 times per week, it may have lasting complications.
Don’t live with and ignore the common symptoms like bad breath, sore throat, regurgitation, cough, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and indigestion.
What Can Happen If You Ignore GERD
We never like to think about the “worst case scenario,” but here are some facts.
GERD Can Damage Your Esophagus
When stomach acid continues to get into your esophagus, it irritates the lining causing it to swell making it difficult to swallow. This is known as esophagitis.
Causes Esophageal Ulcers
If you think that sounds painful, you’d be right. GERD is the leading cause of ulcers in the esophagus. They make it difficult to swallow, and give you chest pains and nausea. See Dignity Health Medical Group about treatment for this painful condition.
Esophageal Stricture Can Occur
As chronic GERD continues untreated, the stomach acid can scar the lining of the esophagus. As the scar tissue increases, it makes the esophagus more narrow in certain spots. It becomes difficult to eat and drink and may lead to dehydration and weight loss. Ask your doctor about an available treatment.
A small percentage of people with GERD develop this condition. It causes precancerous changes in cells. Although only 1% of those with GERD have this, it is still best to check with your physician if you suffer with GERD.
Having more than normal acid in your mouth can lead to tooth decay, wearing down of your enamel and darkening of your teeth.
This happens If acid is accidentally inhaled into your lungs causing a lung infection. It is serious and can lead to a lengthy hospital stay, breathing support, and can sometimes be fatal if not caught in time.
Increases Your Risk Of Cancer
Last, but certainly not least, is the risk for developing esophageal cancer. It does not cause symptoms in its early stages, and they are only noticed once the cancer is in its later stages. There is increased risk for men, those who drink alcohol, are over the age of 55, use tobacco products, or have had radiation treatment to the upper abdomen or chest.
When To Seek Treatment
Don’t ignore chronic heartburn. See a specialist:
- If you have symptoms of GERD more than a few times a week, even if the symptoms are mild
- If you regularly use OTC medications for heartburn or acid reflux
- If you are having side effects from overuse of those meds
Contact Dignity Health Medical Group at (602) 582-5233 if you frequently experience symptoms of GERD. We see patients from Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and the surrounding areas.