A number of possible complications can occur as a result of having gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) for a long time.
The stomach acid that leaks into the oesophagus in people with GORD can damage the lining of the oesophagus (oesophagitis), which can cause ulcers to form.
These ulcers can bleed, causing pain and making it difficult to swallow.
Medications used to treat GORD, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), can help ulcers heal by reducing the amount of acid that leaks into the oesophagus. Read more about treatments for GORD.
Scarred and narrow oesophagus
Repeated damage to the oesophagus by stomach acid can also cause it to become scarred and narrowed.
This is known as oesophageal stricture and it can make swallowing difficult and painful.
If this happens, a procedure to widen the oesophagus using a small balloon or other widening device may be recommended.
Repeated episodes of GORD can sometimes lead to changes in the cells in the lining of your lower oesophagus. This is known as Barrett's oesophagus.
It's estimated that about 1 in every 10 people with GORD will develop Barrett's oesophagus, usually after many years.
Barrett's oesophagus doesn't usually cause noticeable symptoms other than those caused by GORD.
However, there's a small risk that the changed cells could become cancerous in the future (see below). Your doctor may suggest having an endoscopy every few years to check for this.
It's estimated that 1 in every 10-20 people with Barrett's oesophagus will develop oesophageal cancer within 10-20 years.
Symptoms of oesophageal cancer include:
Speak to your doctor if you experience any swallowing difficulties, or any other unusual or persistent symptoms.
Surgery to remove the cancer can be carried out if it's diagnosed at an early stage.
Read more about treatments for oesophageal cancer.