Acid Reflux – The Silent Killer?

You may not be familiar with the term acid reflux even though you’ve probably suffered from it countless times during your life. Acid reflux is also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD for short) or even more commonly it’s referred to as heartburn. Why are there so many names for such a, seemingly, harmless condition? The correct clinical term for heartburn is GERD although anyone trying to explain that they have severe indigestion will find it far easier to stay they have heartburn instead of trying to blurt out gastroesophageal reflux disease. The acid reflux title is a description of what actually occurs in the stomach during heartburn so as you can see it’s far more complicated than you previously thought.

So what exactly is acid reflux? GERD is when your stomach has produced too much acid in its attempt to digest food held there. This extra acid and other fluids then move back up your into your esophagus (the tube connecting your stomach and your throat)and begin to cause both pain and damage in this area. That burning sensation you feel in your chest is the direct result of very powerful stomach acid eating away at the tissue in your esophagus. If this happens every once in a while your body can cope with the damage. If, however, this is a daily occurrence then the damage can become permanent and even life threating. Yes life threatening.

Most people pass heartburn off as a temporary problem that they can “cure” by taking a fistful of antacids and avoiding spicy food for 24 hours. This simply isn’t so. Acid reflux/heartburn can have far more serious implications than simply being uncomfortable. In the most extreme cases acid reflux can lead to the development of a type of cancer which, if left untreated, can be fatal. That’s the most surprising fact for most people – they never, ever assume that something like acid reflux might potentially kill them.

This type of cancer starts off as a condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus (also known as intestinal metaplasia). During prolonged bouts of acid reflux (over a period of years) tissue in the esophagus gets replaced with tissues that are normally only found in the stomach and intestine. This abnormal tissue growth can then lead to a type of cancer developing which is known as esophageal adenocarcinoma. The most worrying aspect of this cancer is that normally it’s not detected until the patient is in their 60’s and at that stage it’s normally too late to treat the cancer.

Should you rush off to your doctor to have a full medical because you get heartburn once in a while? No and the purpose of this article is not to cause a panic. If, however, you find yourself suffering from acid reflux almost every day then it is a recognized medical condition and there are prescription treatments available. Don’t leave your health to chance for the sake of a quick trip to the family doctor for their advice and guidance on the matter.

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