Acid reflux disease can sometimes be a short-lived issue, especially for pregnant women. But for some people, acid reflux is a chronic condition that causes daily discomfort.
Eric Ibegbu, MD, and our team at Atlantic Medical Group excel at diagnosing and treating acid reflux. If you’re uncomfortable, we encourage you to visit us.
In the meantime, read on to learn more about the complications of untreated acid reflux.
Three complications of acid reflux
Acid reflux may seem like a temporary nuisance that pops up after you eat spicy or greasy food, but the reality is that untreated acid reflux can contribute to many unwanted complications.
Chronic inflammation in your esophagus from untreated (or undertreated) acid reflux can cause:
Esophageal stricture happens when your esophagus becomes narrower due to damage. When stomach acid damages your lower esophagus, it causes scar tissue to form.
The buildup of scar tissue takes up space, making your esophagus seem narrower. This can contribute to problems swallowing.
Ulcers, which are open sores, can develop when stomach acid wears away tissue in your esophagus. Like any ulcer, esophageal ulcers bleed. This can cause pain as well as difficulty swallowing.
Stomach acid doesn’t just cause ulcers. It can contribute to Barrett’s esophagus, a condition caused by the damaging stomach acid.
Normally, your esophagus is pink, but if you have Barrett’s esophagus, it becomes thick and red. This, too, can create difficulty when swallowing. It’s also associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
What can you do to avoid these complications?
Taking steps to control your acid reflux can help you avoid these unwanted complications. You can control acid reflux with lifestyle changes as well as medical treatments.
Certain dietary triggers can exacerbate your symptoms. Avoiding these triggers can help you reduce the frequency and intensity of your symptoms. Common triggers include:
- Citrus fruits
- Caffeinated drinks
- Citrus juices
- Spicy foods
- Greasy foods
Eating slower can also help reduce indigestion and gas, which are associated with eating too quickly.
In addition to taking a close look at your diet, look at your sleep hygiene, too. Eating too close to bedtime and sleeping flat on your back can exacerbate the symptoms of acid reflux. Refrain from eating right before bed, and when you do go to sleep, try sleeping at an incline.
Medical treatments to manage acid reflux
If you have mild acid reflux, you may find that simple lifestyle changes are all it takes to see a reduction in your symptoms. If you avoid your triggers, eat smaller meals, sleep at an incline, and still struggle to find relief, Dr. Ibegbu may suggest medication.
Examples of medications used to treat acid reflux include:
- Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors
- Prescription-strength H2-receptor blockers
- Medications to strengthen your esophageal sphincter
In some cases, surgery may be right for you. During surgery, Dr. Ibegbu can strengthen or reinforce your lower esophageal sphincter.
When your sphincter is strengthened or reinforced, there’s less chance that stomach acid will flow backward into your esophagus. Preventing the backflow of stomach acid can help you avoid the risk of stomach acid damaging your esophagus.
At Atlanta Medical Group, Dr. Ibegbu wants to help you feel better now, but he also wants to help you prevent complications of acid reflux in the future. To learn more about acid reflux treatments, call our Jacksonville or Kinston, North Carolina, office today.