Experiencing heartburn when bending over or lying down after heavy meal is something most people have experienced at some point in their lives. In fact, 60 million Americans have heartburn at least once a month. However, if gastric reflux which causes heartburn occurs on a regular basis, it could pose a significant health risk. Here are 7 reasons you should not ignore heartburn:
- Esophagitis: It is the swelling and irritation of the esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach) caused by the spilling of gastric acids into it.
- Development of Strictures: Untreated esophagitis over a period of time can lead to scar tissue formation, also known as an esophageal stricture. It results in narrowing of the esophagus making it difficult and painful to swallow large pieces of food.
- Hiatal Hernia: It is the bulging of the upper part of your stomach through the diaphragm and into your chest cavity. The condition frequently causes heartburn symptoms.
- Difficulty Breathing: Stomach acids may sometimes be inhaled causing shortness of breath, lung problems, and worsening of asthma symptoms.
- Formation of Esophageal Ulcers: Frequent reflux of gastric acids may damage the inner lining resulting in the formation of painful ulcers.
- Barrett’s Esophagus: This is a precancerous condition caused by chronic damage to the lining of the esophagus. There may not be any symptoms, but your doctor will be able to diagnose the condition on endoscopy.
- Esophageal Cancer: This is a very serious condition that is often a consequence of several years of gastric reflux damage. Symptoms include trouble swallowing, weight loss and gastrointestinal bleeding.
If you have been experiencing heartburn symptoms at least twice a week for a long period of time, it is best to visit your doctor or a gastroenterologist for an evaluation and treatment recommendation.
Greater Houston Gastroenterology is the largest full-service gastroenterology group in the Houston metropolitan area, bringing high quality, cost-effective personalized care to patients from The Woodlands and North Houston to Richmond and Sugar Land. Please reach out of us if you have questions or would like additional information.