Why is untreated heartburn a problem?
The lining of the stomach is strong enough to deal with the damaging effects of stomach acid. The lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach) does not have the same cells and is more sensitive to irritating substances. Therefore, if the lining of your esophagus is continuously exposed to stomach acid, certain complications can occur.
What complications can occur if I don't treat my heartburn?
There are 3 main complications that can occur with frequent, untreated heartburn that have the potential to be dangerous:
- Narrowing of the esophagus (stricture). This narrowing can occur by damage to the esophageal lining from frequent contact with stomach acid. The esophagus tries to heal itself by forming scar tissue over the damaged areas. The scar tissue is thicker than the normal lining, and therefore, narrowing of the esophageal tube occurs. Swelling can also occur, which could further narrow the esophagus. When this happens, large pieces of food can get stuck in the narrowed sections and swallowing can become more difficult.
- Ulcer of the esophagus. Damage to the esophagus can also lead to sores, or ulcers. These wounds can become painful, making eating difficult, and can also lead to bleeding.
- Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is an uncommon but serious condition. There are no symptoms associated with Barrett's esophagus, and the only way to diagnose it is to have an exploratory test known as an endoscopy, where a tube with a camera on the end goes down your throat to have a look at your esophagus. In Barrett's esophagus, the cells in the esophagus have been repeatedly exposed to stomach acid, and in response, they change themselves to look more like the cells in the small intestine. Barrett's esophagus can be dangerous because people with this complication have an increased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus. If you are diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus, your doctor will recommend ongoing monitoring to check for cancer of the esophagus.
How can I prevent these complications?
You can help to prevent these complications from occurring by taking your medication as your doctor prescribed and change things in your lifestyle that aggravate your heartburn. If you are not taking any medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about different options that can help with your symptoms. If you are still experiencing symptoms on your current medication, contact your doctor for alternatives.
All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stopping-Heartburns-Acid-Sting