Don’t Ignore Chronic Heartburn: The Risks of Untreated GERD

Don’t ignore chronic heartburn: the risks of untreated GERD are serious and can lead to multiple complications.

older woman with her hand over her chest due to GERDWhat 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.

You don’t have to 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. The physicians of Premier Surgical Lawson Group in Johnson City offer surgical treatment options 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 provider about an available treatment.

Barrett’s Esophagus

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.

Oral Issues

Having more than normal acid in your mouth can lead to tooth decay, wearing down of your enamel and darkening of your teeth.

Aspiration Pneumonia

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. It may be time to schedule a consult with a  Premier Surgical Lawson Group surgeon if:

  • 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

If you frequently experience symptoms of GERD, request an appointment with Premier Surgical Lawson Group at (423) 975-5650. We serve Johnson City and the Tri-Cities.