While the misery of heartburn is the problem most commonly associated with acid reflux, there are some long-term consequences that can occur if you leave an acid reflux problem untreated. In this article, well be talking about the different problems that can arise should you choose to neglect your acid reflux disease.
Barretts esophagus is one problem that you do not want to develop. It is a condition that occurs when the lining of the esophagus is altered to a state that is similar to the linings of the small intestine. While people that dont have acid reflux may be diagnosed with Barretts esophagus, one with acid reflux faces a three to five times as likely chance of developing this condition.
While Barretts esophagus lacks any significant symptoms, it is often a precursor to a deadly form of cancer that is known as esophageal adenocarcinoma. Those with Barretts esophagus face a risk of developing this terminal cancer that ranges from thirty to a whopping one hundred and fifty times as likely as a normal person. Barretts esophagus often affects more men then women, and the average age of diagnosis for the esophageal condition is sixty years old. Barretts esophagus is a tough problem to diagnose, as well.
Diagnosing Esophageal Adenocarcinoma
It cannot be accurately diagnosed due to the fact that there are no symptoms, and physical examinations and blood tests can not accurately determine the presence of this condition. There is only one test that has proven to have any merit when diagnosing Barretts esophagus. It is a procedure known as upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy. A small tube with a light and a camera is lowered into the esophagus, and if the tissues in the esophagus appear to be abnormal, a small device is placed in the esophagus to take a sample of the tissue. Under a microscope, doctors can usually note the presence of Barretts esophagus.
Erosive esophagitis is another risk faced by those with an acid reflux condition. Esophagitis occurs when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus and irritates it. Therefore, it is common in those who have acid reflux. Those who suffer from esophagitis experience several symptoms, including trouble with swallowing, a burning sensation in the throat, and oral lesions.
To detect esophagitis, doctors perform an endoscopy or a barium swallow. Barium is a chemical which dyes the passage that it goes through so that it an x-ray can basically see inside of you. If left untreated, esophagitis can cause intense discomfort as well as malnutrition and dehydration due to the trouble associated with painful swallowing. If esophagitis is diagnosed, it can be treated via medication which can help to reduce the amount of acid developed in the stomach. This, in turn, causes less acid to back up into the esophagus and consequently causes less irritation to the esophagus.
As you can see, acid reflux, if left untreated, can lead to some serious conditions. While discomfort from esophagitis may be a mere nuisance, the risk one faces when Barretts esophagus takes hold are great. Changing your lifestyle and taking proper medications can decrease your risk of developing these harmful conditions.