Chronic irritation of the mucous layer of the esophagus by the stomach acid may lead to a number of complications which include:
- Esophageal erosion and ulceration – stomach’s acid may also cause an open sore (sores) to appear in the distal part of the esophagus.
- Esophageal strictures – damage to the tissues of the esophagus by the acidic content of the stomach may lead to the formation of scar tissues, which prevent the food from passing freely through the esophagus. This leads to a difficulty in swallowing and may call for a surgical treatment.
- Barrett’s esophagus (precancerous changes within the esophagus) – constant irritation by the stomach acid may lead to the intestinal metaplasia (some cells of the esophagus start to resemble those found in the small intestine) of the mucous layer of the esophagus. It is estimated that about in 20% of the cases this metaplasia may lead to adenocarcinoma (malignant tumor).
- Squamous cell carcinoma – is another type of cancer which can be a complication of GERD. It begins from special squamous cells that are located in the esophagus. This type of cancer is usually located in the upper or middle part of the esophagus (unlike the adenocarcinoma which is usually located in the distal part of the esophagus).
The majority of people respond quite well to changes in lifestyle and medicinal treatment. However, some patients need to continue taking drugs in order to keep their condition in check. GERD can lead to a number of serious consequences if not treated in time, so it is very much advisable to visit a gastroenterologist to resolve this problem. Especially since in most cases this condition can be very easily resolved.