Is Heartburn a Major Health Concern?
While many people suffer from heartburn, you may think of it as just a minor inconvenience that occurs after eating large meals or spicy foods. In fact, chronic heartburn can lead to a number of significant health complications if left untreated.
Heartburn that occurs at least twice a week is considered chronic and may be classified as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD has been linked to Barrett’s esophagus, erosive esophagitis, esophageal strictures, and esophageal cancer. The risk for complication may be higher if you suffer from frequent nighttime heartburn or acid reflux, as laying down may cause the esophagus to be exposed to stomach acids for extended periods of time.
Heartburn complications occur because the esophagus is repeatedly exposed to damaging stomach acids. To reduce your risk for these health problems, you should take steps to reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. Some of these steps may include:
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Eating smaller meals
- Avoiding foods that tend to trigger heartburn for you
- Talk to your doctor about possible medications
If prescription medication does not alleviate your symptoms, your doctor may recommend anti-reflux surgery. While all surgeries have a risk of complication, it’s important to understand the risks associated with chronic heartburn as well. Your physician can help you decide which treatment options are right for you.