GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a painful condition, but many people who suffer from it treat it as an annoyance at most. However, chronic heartburn can have long-term effects on your health, particularly with relation to your esophagus. Some of these issues include the following:
- Strictures: The damage resulting from stomach acid exposure can result in heavy scarring, which can narrow sections of the esophagus. These narrow points, called strictures, cause difficulty swallowing, making it hard to keep yourself hydrated and properly nourished. Additionally, it can lead to painful spasms that mimic heart attack symptoms.
- Ulcers: Esophageal ulcers, or sores opened in the esophageal lining by GERD, are painful, and may lead to nausea and difficulty swallowing. These are very slow to heal and can lead to inflammation, bleeding, and even precancerous conditions.
- Esophagitis: Irritation from acids refluxing back into the esophagus leads to inflammation. The esophageal lining swells up, leading again to painful swallowing. This can also lead to stricture and precancerous conditions.
- Tooth decay: Stomach acid eats away at tooth enamel, making it less resistant to bacteria and leading to decay.
- Cancer: Lesions and inflammation can restructure the cells in the esophagus, causing a precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. Fortunately, only a small percentage of people with GERD will get Barrett’s esophagus, and a smaller percentage of that group will actually get cancer. Even so, there is still a risk of esophageal cancer if you have GERD, particularly if it’s left untreated.
These effects can lead to malnourishment, dehydration, and infections. In addition, the pain can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, leading to a whole slew of other health issues, including chronic fatigue and heart disease. If you suffer from GERD, act now. There are many treatments available, so you don’t have to suffer long term. Contact the office of Dr. Malladi Bariatrics and Advanced Surgery today for more information on GERD and how it can be treated.