What are the long-term complications of GERD?
Chronic GERD that is untreated can cause serious complications. Inflammation of the esophagus from refluxed stomach acid can damage the lining and cause bleeding or ulcers—also called esophagitis. Scars from tissue damage can lead to strictures—narrowing of the esophagus—that make swallowing difficult. Some people develop Barrett's esophagus, in which cells in the esophageal lining take on an abnormal shape and color. Over time, the cells can lead to esophageal cancer, which is often fatal. Persons with GERD and its complications should be monitored closely by a physician.
Studies have shown that GERD may worsen or contribute to asthma, chronic cough and pulmonary fibrosis.
Points to Remember
- Frequent heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of GERD in adults. Anyone experiencing heartburn twice a week or more may have GERD.
- You can have GERD without having heartburn. Your symptoms could include a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing.
- If you have been using antacids for more than 2 weeks, it is time to see your health care provider. Most doctors can treat GERD. Your health care provider may refer you to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who treats diseases of the stomach and intestines.
- Health care providers usually recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to relieve symptoms of GERD. Many people with GERD also need medications. Surgery is a treatment option when medical management fails or is too burdensome for the patient over time. It can be performed by specially trained surgeons with a brief hospitalization and a short recovery when laparoscopic techniques are used.
Where can I go to get help for my Heartburn/GERD?
For heartburn testing:
The Heartburn Center at Virginia Hospital Center
1625 N. George Mason Drive, Arlington, VA 22205
Phone: 703.717.GERD (4373)