Acid reflux is a condition that approximately 7 million people in the U.S. experience. Sixty percent of the adult population will experience GERD  sometimes over a 12-month period. Those that experience the condition with any type of regularity or frequency should not ignore the symptoms.

While GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a mild condition that causes discomfort, it could become something more serious. It is important to talk to a doctor and treat this condition in its early stages. Early treatments are often less complex and can prevent more advanced diseases.

Esophageal Damage and Conditions

Untreated acid reflux can cause esophagitis which is when stomach acid irritates the lining of the esophagus which then causes it to swell. Additionally, GERD is a top cause of esophageal ulcers, which are sores in the lining of the esophagus. Damage caused by stomach acid can cause further esophageal issues such as narrow spots in the esophagus, known as esophageal strictures. These spots make swallowing difficult.

Acid reflux can also cause a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. This is when stomach acid causes precancerous changes in the cells. Around 5 to 10 percent of people with GERD will develop Barrett’s esophagus.

Increased Risk of Esophagus Cancer

GERD can raise the odds of developing esophageal cancer. However, those who develop Barrett’s esophagus are at a significantly increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. Doctors believe that most cases of adenocarcinoma, the aggressive form of esophageal cancer, begin in Barrett’s tissue. Approximately 1 percent of those with Barrett’s esophagus will get esophageal cancer. The risk of developing cancer is even higher among individuals who have a family history of GERD, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.

Tooth Decay

Untreated heartburn may also be the cause of tooth decay and other dental problems. Additionally, stomach acid could wear down the hard outer layer of your teeth. This can then weaken your teeth and even lead to cavities.

Symptoms of GERD

  • Burning pain in the chest
  • Chronic belching
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Regurgitation
  • Dry cough
  • Discomfort in the upper abdomen
  • Chronic bitter taste in the mouth

If you have any further questions, are experiencing symptoms of GERD, or have a family history of esophageal conditions and diseases, schedule an appointment  with the expert gastroenterologists of San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates.