Acid reflux 一 a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) 一 affects up to 30% of people. For some, acid reflux is an occasional issue that resolves on its own. Expectant mothers, for instance, may experience acid reflux only while they’re pregnant.
For others, though, acid reflux can be a lifelong battle.
Anyone can develop acid reflux, but you’re more likely to experience it if you’re overweight, pregnant, take certain medications, or smoke. For the 15 million Americans who experience acid reflux daily, the resulting symptoms can be uncomfortable.
Acid reflux happens when stomach acid backs up into your food pipe (or esophagus). An occasional bout of acid reflux is uncomfortable, but ignoring it all together can lead to serious complications.
The good news is that gastroenterologist Eric Ibegbu, MD, and our team at Atlantic Medical Group are experts when it comes to diagnosing and treating acid reflux.
Treatment not only reduces your symptoms, but it also helps you avoid the complications of untreated acid reflux.
Don’t ignore acid reflux
Ignoring the symptoms of acid reflux can affect your overall health and wellness. Here are five reasons you shouldn’t ignore acid reflux.
It can compromise the health of your esophagus
Acid reflux refers to the backward flow (reflux) of stomach acid. Normally, your esophageal sphincter prevents your stomach acid from flowing up into your esophagus, but if you have a weak sphincter, stomach acid can irritate your esophagus.
The constant irritation of acid can create many issues for your esophagus, such as:
- Esophagitis, which is inflammation of your esophagus
- Esophageal stricture, which refers to layers of scar tissue that narrow your esophagus, making it harder to swallow
- Esophageal rings, bands of irregular tissue at the lower end of the esophagus
- Barrett’s esophagus, in which the lining of your esophagus becomes so damaged by acid that it thickens and turns red (rather than pink)
- Increased risk of cancer
Barrett’s esophagus is linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer because the repeated exposure to stomach acid can cause the esophageal cells to transform.
Here at Atlantic Medical Group, we are proud to offer WATS3D, an artificial intelligence (AI) diagnostic platform that helps prevent cancer. This is an endoscopic tissue acquisition procedure in which we remove precancerous cells before they even have a chance to mutate into cancerous cells.
Untreated acid reflux can affect your oral health
Not only does untreated acid reflux compromise the health of your esophagus, but it also can affect your oral health. Without a strong esophageal sphincter to keep stomach acid in place, the acid can travel all the way up to your mouth.
Acid can damage the enamel of your teeth, leading to weakened teeth and even tooth decay.
Untreated acid reflux reduces your quality of sleep
Acid reflux symptoms are worse when you’re reclined, which can have a tremendous impact on the quality of your sleep.
Acid reflux can increase your risk of aspirating stomach acid while you’re sleeping, contributing to and exacerbating obstructive sleep apnea and reducing the quality of sleep due to fragmented sleep.
Acid reflux affects what food you eat
Certain foods can trigger acid reflux. Common triggers include:
- Greasy food
- Spicy food
- Citrus fruit
- Garlic and onions
If you don’t know that you have acid reflux, or you don’t know which food intensifies your symptoms, you might continue to eat problematic foods, which causes more discomfort.
Once you identify acid reflux as the source of your symptoms, identify your dietary triggers, and start treatment, you’ll likely find that eating can be enjoyable once again.
Acid reflux is uncomfortable, which is reason enough to seek treatment. The right treatment can greatly improve the quality of your life, help you get a good night of sleep, and make meals more enjoyable.
Exploring your treatment options
At-home remedies might work well for short-term bouts of acid reflux. For example, if you’re dealing with acid reflux near the end of your pregnancy, you may find that sleeping at an incline and avoiding eating right before bed is enough to help you feel better.
But lifestyle modifications aren’t your only option. Medications that can help ease acid reflux symptoms include:
- Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors
- Prescription-strength H2-receptor blockers
- Medications designed to strengthen your esophageal sphincter
Even if medication isn’t enough, you’re still not out of options. Dr. Ibegbu may recommend surgery if conservative treatments don’t work for you.
Don’t suffer in silence with acid reflux. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Ibegbu today to start exploring your treatment options. Acid reflux treatment is available at our Kinston and Jacksonville, North Carolina, locations.