Constant Heartburn Blues: When Should I Be Worried?
If you constantly experience heartburn, it’s easy to simply just wave the feeling away by taking an antacid. There are more pressing matters, after all, so you take medication to make it go away—there’s plenty of time to worry about it tomorrow. While the idea of taking antacid may be enough, frequent heartburn can be a sign of more pressing problems. In other words, you shouldn’t be ignoring it.
Your heartburn is usually caused by acid reflux, which happens when stomach acid finds its way to the esophagus. As a result, the acid causes pain and discomfort, leading to a tightness that can ultimately irritate and damage the linings.
When Things Take a Turn
When your esophagus continuously falls victim to stomach acid, bear in mind that your esophagus will be experiencing damage. It can lead to inflammation and then destruction, causing you to develop GERD and dysplasia—a one-way ticket to cancer. If your heartburn won’t go away and you experience one or more of the symptoms below, talk to your healthcare provider right away:
- Bitter taste: GERD is responsible for pumping food away from your stomach and back up your throat. Stomach acid is bitter in taste, and if you frequently experience this, your condition is likely worsening.
- Difficulty swallowing: Since acid has taken over your esophagus, you’re likely experiencing trouble swallowing. Certain food gets stuck in your throat, which ultimately develops into a lump that prevents you from eating.
- Coughing: Stomach acid can cause you to frequently cough, as the acid that inhabits your esophagus will likely travel into your lungs as well.
- Presence of blood: GERD also causes you to vomit up blood, which can also be present in your stool. This can be much more painful than just acid, especially during sudden vomit episodes.
Taking the Proactive Approach
GERD can be rather difficult to diagnose, especially since the symptoms that come with it are also part of other conditions. It’s easy to just invest in buckets of antacids, but this is your digestive system in line—if you’re suffering from heartburn consistently, it’s time to get checked.
An endoscopy is the first step to learning more about your digestive tract’s condition, as it is a simple procedure used to examine your esophagus. It can also be used to take tissue samples, which can later be examined for any suspicious cell growth. Unfortunately, persistent GERD can cause abnormal cell growth, which can lead to cancer. Detecting any abnormalities early on will save you the trouble of dealing with complications, so it’s best to begin early.
If precancerous cells are detected, an individual may need to undergo surgery, where removal of the esophagus is necessary.
Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure
When it comes to your digestive system, prevention is always better than cure. Food is abundant and temptations are aplenty, but staying away from food that exacerbates your condition is the best way to avoid GERD and the possibility of cancer. You’ll also want to speak to a healthcare doctor as soon as possible, never relying solely on antacids to make you feel better. Your esophagus is at stake—keep your lines open!
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