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Heartburn (GERD)

What Can Happen If GERD Persists?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 10:22

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

In some cases, GERD may occur for a brief period of time and then disappear forever. Women, for instance, may experience GERD during pregnancy and never again. Obese people who permanently lose weight may be cured of GERD. Often, however, GERD is a chronic disease that does continue. Fortunately, most people have mild GERD that occurs once in a while. It almost never causes any serious or permanent damage to the body. People with mild GERD learn what foods and other factors trigger their symptoms and can usually avoid GERD attacks.

However, severe GERD that continues for years without proper treatment can damage the esophagus and result in serious health problems:

  • Esophagitis, an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus that may cause bleeding and ulcers .
  • Esophageal stricture, a narrowing of the inner part of the esophagus caused by scar tissue.
  • Dysphagia means difficulty swallowing and is due to the strictures and narrowing that obstructs the esophagus, causing difficulty swallowing food and saliva. When swallowing food, especially meat, individuals with strictures may feel that food is sticking in the esophagus in middle of their chest.
  • Barrett esophagus, a condition in which stomach-lining cells start growing in the esophagus. This condition slightly increases the risk that a person will develop cancer of the esophagus.

Heartburn (GERD)