Is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) a serious condition?

Although gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is not considered a serious condition, its impact on one's quality of life is quite detrimental. GERD can affect many areas of life, including sleeping habits, social life, enjoyment of foods and a person's overall sense of well-being. GERD can have a series of serious health consequences, including narrowing of the esophagus due to repeated injury and scarring, the development of ulcers and esophageal bleeding. These conditions sometime don't respond to medication. GERD has also been associated with sleep disturbances and weight management. Additionally, serious lung complications can develop, because when that fluid comes up through the throat, it can enter the lungs. This is called aspiration and it can have life-threatening consequences.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can become a serious problem. If left untreated for a prolonged period of time, reflux can lead to the following conditions:

  • esophageal bleeding
  • esophagitis, which is inflammation of the lining of the esophagus
  • stricture, which is a narrowing of the esophagus
  • Barrett’s esophagus, which is a precancerous lesion in the esophagus due to the constant exposure to acid
  • esophageal cancer

Gastroesophageal reflux is a normal physiologic event, which occurs in all individuals. However, when this occurs frequently and an individual develops recurrent symptoms and/or complications, it is considered gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It is estimated that GERD affects up to 30 million people in the United States, with 10% of those individuals experiencing symptoms on a daily basis.

Continue Learning about GERD

Health Risks of Untreated GERD
Health Risks of Untreated GERD
Heartburn occurs when digestive acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. This cau...
Read More
What if alkaline foods are not helping my acid reflux symptoms?
James Rosser, MDJames Rosser, MD
If alkaline foods are not helping with your acid reflux symptoms, you may have GERD and may need to ...
More Answers
How does diet affect gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
Sharmila Anandasabapathy, MDSharmila Anandasabapathy, MD
Eating a healthy diet low in fat and carbonated beverages can help reduce heartburn symptoms. In thi...
More Answers
How Long Can I Take Medications to Treat GERD?
How Long Can I Take Medications to Treat GERD?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.