Your Health: Living with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - If your "holiday heartburn" is still with you, it may be something much more serious, especially if there is reflux involved.

Barbara Robbins said she's experienced heartburn since being a teenager, but it eventually got worse.

"It's like the liquid from the stomach comes up, into the throat and that's not good. It's like a burning sensation, and a lot of times it would wake me up at night," said Robbins.

At times, she said she would throw up in her sleep. But she's getting help and being treated.

"For a while, I tried over the counter stuff and it just didn't work. And I've been on Nexium now for several years," added Robbins.

Board certified gastroenterologist, Khurshid Yousuf, said Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD can be serious and damage the inside of your throat.

"The content of the stomach is acidic. So whenever that content moves up, it causes heartburn. But we have found through research that you may have reflux disease and not have burning, or the severity of the burning not exactly tells you how severe reflux disease you have," Yousuf said.

Symptoms could affect your daily activities: trouble swallowing, choking, gagging and even vomiting in your sleep. But if those symptoms progress from heartburn and you start experiencing reflux, then it's time to go see a specialist.

"Worst case scenario is cancer of the esophagus. It's adenocarcinoma. This is a type of cancer that we are seeing in more and more patients who have bad reflux problems. And believe it or not, this is one cancer that is preventative, and the number of cancers we see is going up", said Yousuf.

He said most of these cancers are in middle age, white males who are suffering from reflux. Many are overweight.

"When you have injury that progresses, that causes scarring and can lead to narrowing of the esophagus or the food pipe. When that happens you have trouble swallowing, trouble eating food, trouble with food going through there", adds Yousuf.

He said that can lead to cancer. That's why a visit to a specialist is so important for "Your Health."

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