Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease or GORD is a chronic condition in which acid leaks from the stomach into the oesophagus. The symptoms can usually be controlled with diet and medication, although surgery is sometimes required to relieve severe acid reflux. If GORD symptoms persist for a long time it can lead to complications such as Barrett’s oesophagus so it is important to seek treatment if you have chronic reflux. Managing the symptoms can help to prevent the following complications.
If the lining of your oesophagus is repeatedly exposed to stomach acid, it can become damaged and scarred. Severe scarring can even make the oesophagus narrower than usual, which can make it harder to swallow. If you are experiencing difficulty or discomfort when swallowing, your doctor mat recommend a procedure to widen your oesophagus.
The damage caused by repeated exposure to stomach acid can also cause ulcers to develop in the oesophagus. Ulcers are painful sores that may bleed a little. They can make it very uncomfortable to eat. The best way to manage ulcers is to take medication to prevent acid reflux, which should give the ulcers a chance to heal.
Another potential complication caused by stomach acid escaping the stomach is Barrett’s oesophagus. It happens when the lining of your oesophagus changes into a different type of cell. If this happens, it can increase the chances of developing oesophageal cancer. The abnormal cells may need to be checked regularly with an endoscopy or removed to prevent them from becoming cancerous. Most people who have GORD and Barrett’s oesophagus won’t be affected by oesophageal cancer, but the risk is higher than normal. It is therefore important to follow your doctor’s advice on treatment and screening.
All of these potential complications of GORD are caused by repeated exposure of the oesophagus to stomach acids. It is therefore possible to prevent these problems by having GORD treatment to prevent the stomach acid from escaping. In most cases it will be possible to control your acid reflux with medication, but sometimes it is necessary to perform surgery in order to protect your oesophagus.