Occasional heartburn or acid reflux can happen to anyone. However, if you experience it two or more times a week most weeks, you could be at risk for complications that might impact the health of your throat. Discover the complications of routine heartburn and how you can safeguard your throat from damage.
What is Acid Reflux?
During typical food digestion, food goes down the esophagus (the tube at the back of your throat) through a muscle or valve known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), and into the stomach. When you experience heartburn or acid reflux, the LES is relaxing or opening when it shouldn’t and permitting acid from the stomach to increase back up into the esophagus.
Though the majority of anyone may experience heartburn every now and then, those who have more severe cases may be identified with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In these cases, it’s crucial to treat the condition to reduce painful and uncomfortable symptoms and secure the esophagus and the throat.
How GERD May Damage the Esophagus
That burning sensation you feel with heartburn is stomach acid hurting the lining of the esophagus. With time, repeated direct exposure of stomach acid to the lining of the esophagus can cause a condition called esophagitis.
Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus that makes it vulnerable to injuries like disintegrations, ulcers, and scar tissue. Symptoms of esophagitis might include pain, difficulty swallowing, and more acid regurgitation. A doctor can detect this condition with a combination of tests, consisting of a biopsy or a barium x-ray.
Your doctor will likely start treatment right away if you’ve been diagnosed with esophagitis, as a swollen esophagus can result in more health complications.
Complications of Untreated GERD and Esophagitis
If GERD and esophagitis symptoms aren’t brought under control, your stomach acid may continue to further damage your esophagus. Gradually, repeated damage might result in the following complications:
- Narrowing of the esophagus: this is called “esophageal stricture” and may be caused by scar tissue arising from GERD or growths. You might experience problem swallowing or food getting captured in your throat.
- Esophageal rings: these are rings or folds of irregular tissue that form in the lower lining of the esophagus. These bands of tissue might restrict the esophagus and cause problem swallowing.
- Barrett’s esophagus: This is a condition in which the cells in the lining of the esophagus are damaged from stomach acid and change to become much like the cells lining the small intestine. This is a rare condition and you may feel no symptoms, however it can increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer.
All three of these complications can be prevented with correct treatment for frequent heartburn or GERD.
How Acid Reflux and GERD May Damage the Throat
In addition to possibly harming the lower esophagus, frequent heartburn or GERD may likewise damage the upper throat. This can happen if the stomach acid comes all the method up into the back of the throat or nasal respiratory tract. This condition is often described as laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).
LPR is also sometimes called “silent reflux,” due to the fact that it doesn’t always present symptoms that individuals readily acknowledge. It’s essential for individuals with GERD to be checked for LPR, to prevent any unknown throat or voice damage. Symptoms of LPR may include the following:
- chronic throat clearing
- sensation of a “swelling” in the throat
- chronic cough or cough that wakes you from your sleep
- choking episodes
- trouble breathing
- ” rawness” in the throat
- postnasal drip
- voice problems.
Preventing Future Damage
No matter if you have frequent heartburn, GERD, LPR, or a combination of these, it’s essential to manage your symptoms to prevent extra health issue. Talk with your doctor and try the following lifestyle adjustments:
- Eat smaller sized meals more often and take your time chewing.
- Stay upright for a minimum of one hour after meals.
- Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
- Don’t consume alcohol (alcohol is harmful for health)
- Avoid trigger foods like high-fat and high-sugar items, acidic foods (like citrus drinks and tomato products), caffeine, peppermint, and chocolate.
- Preserve a healthy weight.
- Stop cigarette smoking.
- Use loose-fitting clothes.
- Drink a lot of water in between meals.
- Use wedges and pillows to raise your head during sleep.