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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Complications of GERD

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Updated April 28, 2012

Most patients with GERD will not develop serious complications if they receive adequate treatment. However, there are serious complications that can occur in patients with severe GERD.

Barrett's Esophagus
Barrett's esophagus is a condition in which the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food and saliva from the mouth to the stomach, changes so that some of its lining is replaced by a type of tissue similar to that normally found in the intestine. A small percentage of people with longstanding GERD will develop Barrett's esophagus, and a smaller percentage of those people will go on to develop a certain type of esophageal cancer.

Esophageal Cancer
Esophageal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the esophagus. There is an association between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and the adenocarcinoma type of esophageal cancer. If a patient has Barrett's esophagus, a doctor will want to do an endoscopy periodically to screen for changes.

Erosive Esophagitis
Esophagitis is an inflammation and swelling of the esophagus, and is most often caused by acid-containing stomach contents refluxing back up into the esophagus.

Esophageal Strictures
An esophageal stricture is a gradual narrowing of the esophagus, which can lead to swallowing difficulties.

Points to Remember About GERD

  • Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of GERD. Anyone experiencing heartburn twice a week or more may have GERD.

  • You can have GERD without having heartburn. Your symptoms could be excessive clearing of the throat, problems swallowing, the feeling that food is stuck in your throat, burning in the mouth or pain in the chest.

  • If you have been using antacids for more than 2 weeks, it is time to see a doctor. Most doctors can treat GERD. Or you may want to visit an internist--a doctor who specializes in internal medicine--or a gastroenterologist--a doctor who treats diseases of the stomach and intestines.

  • Doctors usually recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to relieve heartburn. Many people with GERD also need medication. Surgery may be an option.

Sources:

"Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)." NIH Publication No. 03–0882 June 2003. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Accessed on 14 Oct 2006 <http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/#5>.

Peter J Kahrilas, MD, Anne Charette, RN, MSN, ANP. Patient information: Gastroesophageal reflux disease. 2006. UpToDate.com. 14 Oct 2006 <http://patients.uptodate.com/topic.asp?file=digestiv/7771>. Accessed on October 14, 2006.

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Avoid and Treat Heartburn
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Heartburn/GERD
  4. Symptoms / Causes
  5. Causes
  6. GERD - Acid Reflux Disease
  7. GERD - Complications of GERD

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