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Why You Shouldn't Ignore GERD

Why You Shouldn't Ignore GERD

If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), your digestive system struggles with stomach acid moving in the wrong direction. Damaging stomach acid overflows and rises into your esophagus, the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. 

GERD is treatable, but when left untreated it can result in complications as your esophagus is irritated by out-of-place stomach acid.

At Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care of Duarte, California, Dr. Ulin Sargeant and her expert care team can diagnose and treat your GERD, protecting your esophagus from long-term negative effects. Here’s what you need to know.

Understanding GERD

You feel heartburn as a burning pain in your chest, localized behind your breastbone. Heartburn-causing acid reflux is more common in the evening and nighttime hours, especially after lying down for bed, but it can occur at any time of the day.

Heartburn or acid reflux can happen to anyone, but if you have GERD, acid reflux becomes a regular part of your week. You might experience mild or moderate acid reflux twice a week, or severe acid reflux at least once weekly.

In addition to heartburn, people with GERD can struggle with swallowing and may feel like there’s always a lump in their throat. You’re also more likely to deal with regurgitation of food and bile if you have GERD.

Complications of GERD

The lining of your stomach can handle stomach acid, but the tissues in your esophagus aren’t built for that. They can become damaged over time by the frequent acid reflux associated with GERD.

Chronic inflammation in your esophagus can cause lasting issues. You might start to experience inflammation of the esophagus, known as esophagitis, which results in pain when you try to swallow. You could develop an esophageal ulcer, which is an open sore that can cause pain and bleeding.

You could also experience narrowing of your esophagus due to the formation of scar tissue, making it increasingly difficult to swallow.

Nighttime acid reflux problems can also result in asthma, chronic coughing, or laryngitis. And acid reflux issues many or most nights disrupts your sleep cycle, which negatively affects your overall health and wellness.

After long-term exposure to damaging stomach acid, your esophageal tissue can undergo precancerous changes, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus that occurs in about 5%-10% of people with GERD. This condition heightens your risk of esophageal cancer.

GERD can even take a toll on your dental health, with the acid wearing down your dental enamel and leaving your teeth more vulnerable to decay and cavities.

Treating your GERD

Dr. Sargeant works with you to put together a personalized treatment plan. With the right approach, you can protect your esophagus from complications of GERD and reclaim your evening hours from uncomfortable symptoms of acid reflux.

You may be able to manage your GERD sufficiently with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter antacid medications. For more severe cases, Dr. Sargeant can prescribe stronger medication or recommend corrective surgery to restore your digestive tract.

If you need treatment and support for your acid reflux problem, get in touch with Dr. Sargeant at Monrovia Internal Medicine & Primary Care now. Schedule your appointment through our virtual office.

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