Acid reflux disease is commonly known as GERD, which is gastro esophageal reflux disease. It is a chronic condition where the acid contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. If left untreated, this condition can lead to esophageal damage which could require surgery. Once treatment for acid reflux disease has begun it is usually necessary to continue treatment for the rest of your life. There are medications which can help to heal the damage but once discontinued, the damage can reoccur.
There are certain conditions which are believed to contribute to acid reflux disease. People with scleraderma often have acid reflux disease as a result of the esophageal muscles being damaged. Scleraderma is a rare disease which causes hardening of the muscles, tissue, and major organs.
Another condition is people who have a hiatal hernia often suffer from acid reflux disease. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach attaches to the esophagus. This causes the esophagus to push against the diaphragm. Once this happens the esophagus is no longer in the correct position and is more susceptible to acid reflux disease.
Esophageal contractions are one of the more common causes of acid reflux disease. When the esophagus constricts it pushes acids upwards. This results in the burning sensation which is known as heartburn.
Acid Reflux Disease Complications
Since acid reflux disease is a chronic condition, there are several complications that can arise as a result of it. Ulcers can form in the esophagus just as they can in the stomach. An ulcer is a break in the lining of the esophagus which usually causes bleeding. In severe cases, the bleeding can become severe enough to require blood transfusion. This is rare but is something that needs to be carefully watched.
Strictures form after an ulcer has healed. This can be compared to scar tissue that forms after surgery. If the stricture is large enough, it may cause food to lodge in the esophagus causing a choking feeling. In some cases the food must be removed surgically. This problem can usually be corrected by a surgical procedure which stretches the esophagus out to a more normal size. The procedure is simple and normally does not require a stay in the hospital.
If the reflux is bad enough to get into the lungs it could result in pneumonia. This happens when reflux fluid is aspirated into the lungs. This condition usually is accompanied by severe coughing. With this type pneumonia, the patient should seek help immediately since the acid can cause severe harm to the lining of the lungs. Scarring could result or, if left untreated, could lead to death.