Acid Reflux Problems When Left Untreated
For most people, acid reflux is a minor nuisance. For others, however, acid reflux is a chronic condition requiring medication and a monitored diet in order to prevent symptoms. Left untreated, acid reflux can be a warning sign for other, more serious health conditions including GERD.
Acid reflux, commonly called heartburn, is characterized by a burning feeling in the chest and throat and chest pain and difficulty swallowing. If you have heartburn, you may notice a sour or acidic taste in the back of your throat and feel like something is lodged there. Acid reflux is caused by an ineffective lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, which allows stomach acid to seep up into the esophagus.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, affects 7% to 10% of people and can cause, in addition to acid reflux symptoms, a chronic sore throat, hoarseness, inflammation of the gums, and erosion of tooth enamel.
Barrett's esophagus is caused by untreated GERD or acid reflux that damages the cells that line the esophagus. The esophagus can be damaged and scarred, causing a condition called strictures, which can affect eating and drinking and quality of life.
Esophagitis is essentially the inflammation of the esophagus which can be very painful. Untreated, it can cause ulcers or bleeding in the esophagus and can lead to Barrett's esophagus.
If you are experiencing any of the following conditions you should consult your doctor:
- Excessive vomiting
- Black or bloody stools
- Severe abdominal or chest pain
- Weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
- Wheezing, asthma, or difficulty breathing
These are all warning signs of a more serious problem and require medical attention.
Acid reflux may just be an occasional annoying part of life when we eat foods we usually know are best avoided. But, as with any recurring health condition, if you experience symptoms lasting longer than a week or two that do not seem to respond to medication, they may be signs of a more serious problem and should warrant a trip to the doctor's office.
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