For people with severe acid reflux, managing this condition is necessary because if not treated, it could lead to some really serious health problems. Symptoms of acute acid reflux include persistent, severe pain that gets even worse over time.
Aside from the pain and discomfort, severe acid reflux often leads to esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal cancer and strictures. Let’s take a closer look at these complications:
- Esophagitis – this occurs when stomach acid continually comes into contact with the esophagus resulting to bleeding or ulcers in the esophagus.
- Barrett’s esophagus – this develops if esophagitis goes untreated and esophageal bleeding or ulcers continue. Barrett’s esophagus is a condition where cell abnormalities develop in the esophagus, in other words, healthy esophagus cells turn into cells that should not be present in the esophagus. The symptoms of this condition are basically similar to severe acid reflux and the condition is treated by preventing acid from getting into the esophagus.
- Esophageal cancer – this condition is more common in men and usually develops if Barrett’s esophagus is not treated immediately. This is a disease in which cancer cells are found in the esophagus. Esophageal cancer can also be the result of alcoholism, smoking, GERD and severe acid reflux. Esophageal cancer has no symptoms in its early stages but over time, patients will experience difficult and painful swallowing and weight loss.
- Strictures – severe acid reflux can damage the lining of the esophagus and when this happens, the esophagus becomes scarred. The resulting scar tissue will narrow the esophagus and this narrowing is termed strictures. The tightening of strictures will prevent food and drinks from entering the stomach. Treatment of this condition involves stretching and enlarging the esophagus to keep other health problems from occurring due to lack of proper nutrition.
Properly managing severe acid reflux can reduce the risk of developing any of these diseases. There are lifestyle changes which can be helpful in treating acid reflux like changing your eating habits and quitting smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
Your eating habits can greatly contribute to acid reflux. If your stomach is always overly full, stomach acid is more likely to enter the esophagus. If you are prone to acid reflux, try eating several small meals a day instead of eating two large meals. Also, avoid eating right before going to bed because this may result to nighttime heartburn or acid reflux which can interrupt your sleep and cause other problems. Eat your last meal at least several hours before your bedtime and it will also help prevent nighttime acid reflux if you raise the head of your bed before sleeping.
If you are a smoker, you should lessen the amount of cigarette you smoke or simply quit the habit. Nicotine from cigarettes and tobaccos relaxes the muscle that prevents acid from backing up into the esophagus. Additionally, smoking increases your risk of developing esophageal cancer so if you suffer from severe acid reflux, you should quit your smoking.
Your doctor can also give suggestions on how to treat your severe acid reflux problem. Most physicians will recommend that you avoid certain foods that can contribute to heartburn or acid reflux like chocolates, high fat meats, fried foods, peppermint, etc. Your doctor can also prescribe medications that can help ease the symptoms of the condition.