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Hidden Dangers of Heartburn &
Acid Reflux

Uncontrolled and long-lasting acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can cause serious health problems. If severe, GERD can cause vomiting, bleeding, or difficulty swallowing. Other complications of uncontrolled GERD include:

  • Esophagitis – This condition occurs when stomach acid repeatedly comes into contact with the lining of the esophagus. It can lead to erosions or ulcers in the lining of the esophagus and can bleed if severe.
  • Barrett’s esophagus – This condition develops in approximately 10% of patients who have long-standing GERD. In Barrett’s esophagus, the cells of the esophagus are altered and on examination appear similar to cells that are found in the lining of the small intestine. This condition is a risk factor for developing esophageal cancer, and about 1 in 300 people with the condition will develop cancer each year.
  • Esophageal stricture – If enough damage occurs over time, the tissue of the esophagus can become scarred and lead to narrowing of the esophagus. This can interfere with eating and drinking.
  • Esophageal cancer – Two types of cancer can develop in the esophagus from uncontrolled GERD, squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is the type of cancer that can develop as a result of Barrett’s esophagus.

At this time, screening tests are not recommended for these conditions unless a person is deemed to be at high-risk by their healthcare provider. Typically, screening and diagnosis of conditions resulting from uncontrolled GERD includes endoscopy. This test makes it easy for physicians to visualize the tissue of the esophagus and stomach and allows them to take biopsy samples.

If you are concerned that you have uncontrolled acid reflux, or GERD, our Physicians East staff can help you determine the appropriate treatment needed and can help you decide on performing any tests, if necessary.