Over time, chronic inflammation, which is an inherent part of the heartburn, in the esophagus can cause:
Narrowing of the esophagus (Esophageal stricture)
Damage to the lower esophagus from stomach acid causes scar tissue to form. The scar tissue narrows the food pathway, leading to problems with swallowing.
An Open sore in the esophagus (esophageal ulcer)
Stomach acid can wear away tissues in the esophagus, causing an open sore to form. An esophageal ulcer can bleed, cause pain and make swallowing difficult.
Precancerous changes to the esophagus (Barret’s esophagus)
Damage from acid can cause changes in the tissue lining of the lower esophagus. These changes are associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus, is a complication of GERD, if GERD is left untreated, esophagitis can cause bleeding, ulcers, and chronic scarring. This scarring can narrow the esophagus, eventually interfering with your ability to swallow.
One major complication which occurs in about 10 to 15% of people with chronic or long-standing GERD is Barret’s esophagus. Barret’s esophagus results when the normal cells of the esophagus are replaced with cells similar to those of the intestine. This increases the risk of esophageal cancer. Developing Barret’s esophagus does not mean you will get cancer, but your chances of getting cancer will be increased.
Your doctor will want to check you on a regular basis in order to detect any cancer in its early stages. People who have Barret’s esophagus may require periodic endoscopies with esophagus biopsies to check for pre-cancer cells