March 08, 2022 6 min read

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition characterized by the reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus. When this happens, it can cause damage to the tissue known as the esophageal lining, which is inside your esophagus. Your doctor may recommend following a GERD treatment plan that includes a diet and other steps to reduce acid reflux and get relief from GERD symptoms.

Over time, GERD can cause a significant amount of damage to your body, specifically your esophageal lining. This damage is caused by the acid from your stomach making contact with the inside of your esophagus, and it can eventually lead to difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and other symptoms. Fortunately, the condition can be managed with lifestyle changes, acid reflux medication, and surgery.

If you’re living with GERD, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you can do to avoid the long-term effects of untreated GERD. Your doctor will help you create a GERD treatment plan that helps to reduce acid reflux and keep your GERD from flaring up as often. If you want to know more about the long-term health effects of GERD and what you can do to avoid them, read on.

Defining GERD

GERD is a medical condition that’s defined by the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus, where it can cause damage to your esophageal lining. GERD is known by several other names, including acid reflux and heartburn. In order to diagnose GERD, your doctor will use a series of imaging tests and pH-based tests to determine how much damage stomach acid is doing to your esophagus.

While there’s no cure for GERD, there are steps you can take to prevent GERD in some cases. GERD may be caused by several medical conditions and lifestyle decisions, so treating these medical conditions and avoiding bad habits can help you prevent GERD. If you think you may be at risk of developing GERD, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes and other steps you can take to stay healthy.

What is GERD

Long-Term Effects Of GERD

Early treatment is the best way to avoid the long-term effects of GERD, which can range from a little bit of pain and discomfort to serious esophageal conditions. The first step is getting a diagnosis, then talking to your doctor about the best GERD treatment plan for you. The sooner you focus on treating GERD, the less you have to worry about the long-term effects of GERD.

As far as the long-term effects go, here’s what you can expect if you don’t treat GERD:

Esophagitis

Esophagitis

Esophagitis is a condition where the esophageal lining becomes inflamed, which can cause pain and discomfort and affect the function of your esophagus. While there are ways to reduce the inflammation that comes with esophagitis, this can take several days. Symptoms of esophagitis include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and pain when swallowing. Your doctor may recommend making dietary changes, quitting smoking, or losing weight to help treat esophagitis.

While esophagitis is painful and uncomfortable, it’s generally not a huge medical concern. If you believe you have esophagitis, you should talk to your doctor about steps you can take to treat it.

Esophagus Bleeding

Esophagus Bleeding

It’s not uncommon for your esophagus to become inflamed as a result of the long-term effects of GERD, but that inflammation can lead to bleeding in some cases. When your esophagus is very badly damaged by GERD, it can lead to esophageal bleeding that can be life-threatening in some cases. While this is more common in people who have a blood clot or a blood flow issue in the liver, it can happen to people living with GERD as well.

In cases of esophageal bleeding, it’s important to see a doctor right away. While some esophageal bleeding is worse than others, it’s always a potentially life-threatening condition. Your doctor can help put a stop to esophageal bleeding before it becomes a serious, life-threatening problem.

Strictures

Strictures

It’s completely normal for your esophagus to contract regularly. In fact, your esophagus contracts to help move food down the esophagus and into the stomach for digestion. While some contractions are normal, strictures refer to abnormal tightening and narrowing of the esophagus and can be caused by GERD. Strictures can lead to pain and a burning sensation in the throat as well as difficulty swallowing.

In order to treat strictures, your doctor may use esophageal dilation. During this process, your doctor will manually dilate or open up the esophagus to make sure it’s not abnormally constricted. This opening of the esophagus is typically done with a plastic or rubber cylinder that’s inserted into your throat. The specifics of treatment for strictures depend on the severity of the condition.

 Barrett's Esophagus

Barrett’s Esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is perhaps the most common of the long-term effects of GERD, especially if you don’t do anything to manage GERD. Barrett’s esophagus refers to the damage that’s caused by repeated exposure of the esophageal lining to stomach acid, which causes damage to the tissue on the inside of the esophagus. This is an easily diagnosable condition because people with Barrett’s esophagus have a thickened, red esophageal lining that can be seen with endoscopy.

The biggest concern with Barrett’s esophagus is that it increases your risk of developing esophageal cancer. This makes Barrett’s esophagus one of the most dangerous long-term effects of GERD, especially if you don’t begin treatment when you’re diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus.

Managing GERD

If you’ve been diagnosed with GERD, it’s important to talk to your doctor about treatment and management of GERD. For example, switching to a GERD diet can help reduce acid reflux, and you may have other options in the form of surgery or medication. If you want to know more about managing GERD so you don’t do long-term damage to your esophagus, here are some things you can do.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are perhaps the most important part of managing and treating GERD. The first thing you should consider is making changes to your diet. Certain foods may make heartburn worse while others are very gentle on your stomach. The goal is to eat the foods that help with GERD and avoid the ones that make it worse. Your doctor can help you come up with a detailed diet plan for GERD.

Losing weight is another thing to consider if you want to avoid the long-term effects of GERD. Being overweight can make GERD worse, so talk to your doctor about finding a healthy weight for you and achieving your goal weight.

If you’re a smoker, now is the perfect time to quit smoking. Doctors believe that smoking may make GERD worse by loosening the lower sphincter of the esophagus, which allows acid to reflux into the esophagus from the stomach. Quitting smoking isn’t just a good way to manage GERD, either; there are endless health benefits to quitting smoking.

How to manage GERD infographic

Medication

In some cases, your doctor may recommend certain medications to help treat GERD. The goal of these medications is to reduce the production or reflux of acid to prevent the esophageal damage that GERD can cause. There are three types of medications that may be used to treat GERD: antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Antacids are the most straightforward of the GERD medications. Some examples of antacids include Tums, Rolaids, and Alka-Seltzer. The goal of these products is to neutralize acid in your stomach so it doesn’t cause so much damage if it refluxes into your esophagus. There can be some side effects with antacids, so you shouldn’t use them all the time.

H2 blockers work by decreasing the amount of acid your stomach produces. There are both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription H2 blockers available. Some of the OTC H2 blockers include Pepcid and Zantac.

PPIs work by reducing the strength of the acid in your stomach, which means it doesn’t do as much damage if it refluxes. However, PPIs have received a lot of negative press lately because prolonged use of PPIs can cause serious side effects.

GERD Surgery

In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to treat GERD. The goal of this surgery is to reduce the reflux that’s caused by GERD or NERD and prevent the damage that reflux can cause. Before you opt for GERD surgery, talk to your doctor about the risks of GERD surgery and the difference between GERD vs. NERD.

Doctor

Wrapping Up

Living with GERD means creating a GERD treatment and management plan that you can stick to. Managing GERD helps you avoid the long-term effects of GERD, which can include Barrett’s esophagus that increases your risk of esophageal cancer. Your doctor can tell you more about minimizing the damage that results from GERD.

If you’re living with GERD and need help finding relief, MedCline can help. Our GERD pillows help you get relief from nighttime acid reflux, so you can reduce esophageal damage and get a good night’s sleep. Contact MedCline today to learn more about how our GERD pillow can help you manage your acid reflux.



Also in Acid Reflux

9 Conditions That Cause Heartburn
9 Conditions That Cause Heartburn

March 15, 2022 6 min read

Read More
GERD Test: How Diagnosis Happens
GERD Test: How Diagnosis Happens

March 02, 2022 6 min read

Read More
Can GERD Cause Back Pain?
Can GERD Cause Back Pain?

February 22, 2022 6 min read

Read More