Most Americans have experienced symptoms of acid reflux occasionally after a heavy meal or very spicy food. This may not be a cause for concern. However, popping a few pills to resolve the burning sensation in your chest may not be the right thing to do if you experience heartburn symptoms on a regular basis.
Frequent acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, can result in serious health concerns:
- Damage to your esophagus: Over time, the back flow of gastric juices causes irritation and inflammation of the esophagus, development of ulcers, internal bleeding, formation of scar tissue, narrowing of the esophageal canal and difficulty swallowing. If these signs and symptoms are not quickly treated, precancerous changes may occur which may progress to full-blown cancer.
- Voice changes and throat problems: In some cases, the classic symptom of heartburn may not be present. This condition is known as silent reflux. Tell-tale signs include a chronic sore throat, hoarseness of voice, and constant throat clearing.
- Breathing problems: Regurgitated stomach acid may be inhaled causing difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and an increased risk of asthma or pneumonia.
- Tooth decay: The stomach acid may make its way right up to your mouth causing a sour taste and damaging your tooth enamel as well.
If you have a burning sensation in your chest after eating, chest pain when bending over or lying down, sour taste in the back of your mouth, or a sore throat or cough that does not seem to be getting better and these symptoms occur more than once a week, it is time to get serious and see your doctor. An early diagnosis and prompt treatment will improve your chances of making a complete recovery.