Heartburn is common, but constant bouts with the condition puts you at risk for damaging side effects.
About 60 million Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month. While some many brush off the sometimes painful symptoms, experiencing heartburn often can lead to further medical problems.
Heartburn is a term used to the describe the painful, burning sensation caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is often the culprit. GERD occurs as the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach fails to close, allowing stomach contents to leak backwards.
Chronic heartburn has the following long-term effects:
- Ulcers – Stomach acid erodes the lining of the esophagus causing ulcers and potential bleeding.
- Difficulty swallowing – Over time, acid can scar the esophagus making swallowing difficult.
- Dental problems – If stomach acid makes its way up to the mouth, it has a negative effect on tooth enamel.
- Asthma attacks – When heartburn occurs during sleep, acid makes its way into the throat and then drains into the lungs, irritating and inflaming the tissue.
- Chronic laryngitis
- Esophageal cancer
In most cases, GERD is treated with medications and by prescribing lifestyle changes, such as:
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Eating smaller portions
- Not wearing tight clothing and belts that put extra pressure on the abdomen
Heartburn is rarely life-threatening, but can have a significant impact on your daily life. The professionals at the Heartburn and Swallowing Disorder Center at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point can help you get your heartburn under control and prevent those long-term effects. For more information or for a physician referral call our free Consult-A-Nurse® service at 1-888-741-5119.