We tend to dismiss damage from acid reflux or heartburn as a minor problem that is just an annoyance.
Make no mistake about it, long-term acid reflux, GERD, heartburn or whatever you want to call it, does real damage.
The following is possible damage from acid reflux disease:
The acidic juices that get into the esophagus because of refluxing damage the cells in the lining of the esophagus. The body's response to this is to cause inflammation. The purpose of inflammation is to neutralize the damaging agent, in this case the acid. It also helps in healing the damage.This inflammation can cause the feeling of a lump or hard swallowing.
If the damage is severe, if it goes more deeply into the esophagus, an ulcer forms. Ulcers are sores in the lining of the esophagus that occur in the inflammed area.
Ulcers are hard to heal and can cause additional inflammation. If the ulcers get worse, bleeding can occur. With the formation of ulcers, now you are getting into more serious damage from acid reflux.
When ulcers in the esophagus heal they form scars. The scar tissue shrinks over time and narrows the esophagus. This can cause a feeling of a lump or hard swallowing all the time.
This is about the worst damage from acid reflux or GERD that can occur. Long-term reflux can cause the cells in the esophagus to change to pre-cancerous and then to cancerous cells. This is called Barrett's Esophagus and essentially is cancer of the esophagus. This occurs in about 10% of people with bad acid reflux or GERD.
This was an area of special concern to me and one I had trouble finding information about. Here is what I learned:
The lower esophagus contains many nerves. Some of these are stimulated by the refluxed gastric acids. These nerves can cause pain (heartburn), cough or they can stimulate nerves going to the lungs. This can cause asthma or a feeling of asthma.
If the refluxed liquid gets past the upper esophageal sphincter, see the LPR page, it can get into the throat, voice box and lungs.
This can lead to a sore throat and hoarseness. In my case it led tosevere discomfort when I talked.It felt like pressure of a lump in my throat or a little farther down.
If I kept talking, it would almost make me feel like I was either going topass out or have a heart attack.
Shrinking of the Breathing Passages
Everything in the throat, pharynx area is so closely tied together that any acid getting here can get into the breathing tubes and into the lungs.You won't feel this happening.Things up here are not designed to come into contact with acid and so are more susceptible to damage from acid reflux than the lower esophagus.
The air passages leading to the lungs can shrink. I don't know exactly how this happens. It may be from the acid itself coming in contact or maybe the acid stimulates the nerves to do this. It doesn't really matter, The result is difficult breathing.
Inflammed or Infected Lungs
Liquid refluxed into the lungs can result in coughing or chocking to alert you. However, this can also occur with no signs to warn you.
This can result in an infection in the lungs (pneumonia) or a slow scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis). This scarring reduces the lungs ability to do their job. This type of damage is more likely to occur at night.
One last thing I want to touch on is the damage done to your lifestyle. As the physical damage slowly happens to you, you find that you can no longer do some of the things you used to, eat some of the things you used to, have the energy you used to and your life begins to be much less enjoyable.
For me this damage was more real than what damage was happening to my insides. I began staying home more to avoid getting into situations where I would have to eat or refuse to eat certain meals. It makes you feel like a jerk.
You must do all that you can to prevent damage to your body. Once the damage gets to a certain point it cannot be fully reversed. You must get to the root cause of the problem and correct it!
Are you motivated to try to help yourself yet? The following link will point you in the right direction. Leave the damage from acid reflux page.