Much has been written about the dangers of taking acid reflux medication. These drugs have been blamed for multiple disorders including kidney disease, dementia, and osteoporosis. In response, many people suffer through reflux symptoms, not wanting to seek medical care and risk the possible side effects of the medications.
However, if the fear of taking reflux medications is causing you to ignore your reflux symptoms, here are several reasons you may reconsider seeking help.
1. Strictures. The esophagus is the tube that brings food and liquids from your mouth to your stomach. According to the Mayo Clinic, over time, chronic inflammation related to untreated acid reflux can lead to a narrowing of the esophagus due to the formation of scar tissue. This scar tissue can narrow the food pathway and make swallowing difficult over time.
2. Esophagitis. Inflammation of the esophagus can be another complication of acid reflux. And, because stomach acid is so erosive, if the acid reflux continues to go untreated, the reflux can erode the esophageal tissue and form painful sores.
3. Asthma. While the exact relationship is not yet understood, people with acid reflux disease are more likely to have asthma. This does not mean that everyone with acid reflux will develop asthma, but this is another real reason to treat and control your acid reflux. Some researchers believe that acid reflux treatment in individuals with asthma can improve their quality of life and may also improve their asthma. Acid reflux treatment may also cause small increases in lung function.
4. Esophageal cancer. During the last several decades, the increased rates of esophageal cancer have become a national healthcare concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 16,000 new cases and more than 14,000 deaths from esophageal cancer in 2011. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be one of the critical factors in this increased rate of cancer. According to the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, 10-15 percent of patients with GERD develop a condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus and are then consequently predisposed to esophageal cancer.
If you suspect that you may have symptoms of acid reflux, it is extremely important that you seek medical care. Together, you and your doctor can come up with treatment solutions with which you both feel comfortable.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.