Every person suffers from acid reflux at some point of time in their lives. However, how long this will last is something that everyone wonders. The longer it lasts, the more difficult it will be to cope with the symptoms like heartburn, sore throat, hoarseness in voice and swallowing problems. Sometimes, it can even lead to breathing troubles.
How Long Does Acid Reflux Last?
To answer this question simply, it needs to be stated that there is no particular time that can be pre-determined as to how long acid reflux problems will last. While elaborating this, it can be said that as soon as the acidity reduces or the stomach acids stop irritating the esophagus, larynx and pharynx, the problem will subside.
Since the mechanism of acid reflux is the irritation of throat and esophagus tissue due to the acidic nature of the stomach juices, consuming antacids can work fast in reducing, as well as treating the condition. The antacids reduce the pH value of these stomach acids that move up towards the esophagus and throat in case of acid reflux or gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Thus, it loses its acidity and become neutralized.
Hence, it can be said that as soon as you feel that you have got an acid reflux and you take an antacid, your problem will gradually subside. However, on an average, the condition lasts for about 2 hours in most cases. It can last for a longer period if spicy foods, fatty foods, carbonated drinks, alcohol and citrus foods and drinks are consumed during an acid reflux. Even going to bed or staying in a lying position before or within 2 to 3 hours of eating or without treating the condition will contribute in lasting the condition longer.
What are the Effects of Acid Reflux?
Many people consider acid reflux to be a very light problem that will subside on its own. However, it is "not OKAY" to have acid reflux or GERD frequently. Frequent, Acid Refluxes only indicate that there are other complications that are going on in the inside of your body. On the other hand, leaving GERD untreated or to be treated on its own will have their long-lasting and more complicated effects. These include –
- Esophageal Ulcers: One of the effects of acid reflux is esophageal ulcer. If acid reflux or GERD is frequent and long lasting, it can lead to esophageal ulcers. In fact, the most common cause of esophageal ulcers is GERD or Acid Reflux. As the stomach acids will continuously irritate the tissue of the esophagus, it may sore the area and sometimes, the sores become ulcers.
- Esophagitis or Painful Swallowing: As the acids from the stomach continuously irritate the esophagus, it inflames the esophagus. Hence, swallowing becomes a problem. This esophageal inflammation is called esophagitis.
- Acid Reflux Leading to Esophageal Stricture: The lining of the esophagus can be scarred due to the continuous damage caused by the stomach acids. As the scar tissue builds up in the esophagus, it narrows down the space of the esophagus. These narrowed down spots are called strictures and when strictures occur in the oesophagus, it makes it difficult to swallow the food and drinks. Dehydration and weight loss come as a consequence of the esophageal stricture.
- Barrett's Esophagus as an Effect of Acid Reflux: This is quite a serious effect of untreated or chronic acid reflux. Amongst all the GERD or acid reflux sufferers, about 5 to 10% people are found to encounter a pre-cancerous cell change due to the stomach acid exposure. If not treated on time, this can lead to esophageal cancer. However, the doctor can remove the abnormal cells quite in advance; preventing them from leading to cancer and only about 1% people with Barrett's esophagus get esophageal cancer. To prevent, early diagnosis of the condition is a must. Since there are no obvious signs and symptoms that indicate Barrett's esophagus or differentiate the condition from other acid reflux symptoms, if you have frequent GERD, seeing a doctor without delay is a wise decision.
- Esophageal Cancer: As already stated, with chronic GERD and Barrett's esophagus, the chances of getting esophageal cancer become high. The problem with this condition is that symptoms of esophageal cancer such as chest pain and swallowing troubles will occur only at the later stage of the disease. At that stage, it becomes quite difficult to treat the condition. Hence, seeing a doctor and undergoing endoscopy regularly, in case you have chronic GERD and Barrett's oesophagus is a good idea.
- Dysphagia: Since the esophagus gets narrowed down due to the stricture, one will feel that something is stuck at the back of the throat. This symptom is called dysphagia. It is a very uncomfortable effect of acid reflux that disturbs the regular diet.
- Weight Loss as an Effect of Acid Reflux: As the esophageal stricture narrows down the esophagus and disturbs the diet, proper eating habits are disrupted. Consequently, one loses weight. However, this is not the case for everyone. It is a condition that mostly affects those, who have frequent GERD leading to esophagitis and esophageal stricture.
- Sore Throat and Hoarseness: One of the most common and significant effects of acid reflux are hoarseness in throat or sore throat. The stomach acids that come up to the larynx, irritates the throat tissues and hoarseness and sore throat are obvious consequences.
- Acid Reflux Causing Heartburn: As the stomach acids move up to the esophagus, there is a burning sensation felt in your chest. However, there is a tricky factor associated with GERD and heartburn and that is, with esophageal strictures, the heartburn may decrease. This is because the narrowing of esophagus prevents the stomach acids from moving up. However the decrease in heartburn should not be mistaken as the GERD being treated. In fact, with ignorance this can lead to other difficulties.
- Tooth Decay: Many acid reflux or GERD sufferers are found to have tooth decay. The reason behind this can be the stomach acids that move upwards and reach the mouth. As the teeth enamel is exposed to these stomach acids, they undergo decay. This can lead to bad breath and even the saliva production of the mouth is often increased.
- Esophageal Spasms: Often mistaken to be heart attacks, esophageal spasms can be encountered by many. It is associated with chest pain and is quite unpleasant effect of acid reflux.
- Breathing Problems: Research studies have proven that GERD has a strong association with breathing problems or asthma. About 30 to 80% asthma patients are found to be suffering from GERD. Though the exact cause of this is not clear, it is widely believed that the stomach acids get into the airways and causes the breathing problems. Though these are the serious effects of Acid Reflux, there are other common effects such as bloating, nausea and hiccups that should not be ignored. If any of these symptoms are felt, treatment without a delay is a must, so that the critical complications can be avoided.
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