Effects of Uncontrolled Heartburn
Asthma and Other Respiratory Problems
Asthma and heartburn often go hand-in-hand. Studies have found that about 30% to 80% of patients with asthma also have symptoms of GERD. Whether asthma leads to GERD or vice versa is still unknown. One possible explanation of the connection between GERD and asthma is that acid that backs up from the stomach gets into the airways.
GERD has also been linked to several other respiratory conditions, including:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic cough
- Chronic sinusitis
- Pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring)
- Recurrent pneumonia
Voice and Throat Problems
Acids from GERD can affect the throat, leading to hoarseness and laryngitis. Some people, particularly those with very severe acid reflux, have reported voice changes. On a positive note, voice and throat problems tend to respond very well to treatment for GERD.
Dental Problems Due to Reflux
When harsh acids make their way into the mouth, they can wreak havoc with tooth enamel. A number of studies have noted that people with GERD have more dental erosion than normal. The condition can also lead to bad breath and an increase in saliva production.
Heartburn Complications in Children
Infants and children can also develop heartburn and other symptoms of GERD. Although they might not be able to express exactly what they're feeling, they can eventually develop many of the same complications as adults if the condition isn't treated. Infants with severe reflux may fail to feed properly. This, in turn, leads to poor growth. If they aspirate stomach acids into the airways, babies can develop recurrent pneumonia. Some researchers have even suggested that sudden infant death syndrome might be related to a blockage of the airways due to reflux.
Avoiding Complications of Reflux
Before you worry that your heartburn is leading you straight down the road to esophagitis or esophageal cancer, you should know there are several treatments available. These treatments can both ease your heartburn and reduce your risk for complications.
A gastroenterologist can use a thin scope called an endoscope to look at your esophagus and diagnose your condition. Treatment for GERD usually involves medications and lifestyle interventions. On rare occasions, however, surgery may be needed to relieve a blockage or prevent the acid from backing up.