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Lifelong Reflux Medication – A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

Often I’m asked by patients, “Why can’t I just take a medication the rest of my life and control my symptoms? Is that not sufficient in order for me to feel better?” Certainly, if the goal is to do nothing but not feel symptoms, you can take medication the rest of your life.  You can take medication, mostly safely, throughout your lifetime, but it’s important to understand that medication is really only a band aid and it only affects how you feel.  The importance of controlling your reflux is that reflux is a chronic inflammatory condition and that chronic inflammation that affects the tissues of the esophagus is what causes the real threat as time goes on.

Continued inflammation can lead to ulceration or erosions that, when they heal, create scar tissue or what we call strictures, which can impede the ability to swallow and then, makes the ability of your body to control reflux even more difficult.  More seriously, is the development of a chronic inflammatory pre-malignant condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus.  This occurs because the cells that normally are replaced in the esophagus are so inflamed that they create another type of tissue, which is considered more resistant to acid. This is known as Barrett’s tissue.  Barrett’s tissue is a pre-malignant condition and felt to be a precursor for cancer of the esophagus. Another very important point is that, even in the absence of Barrett’s tissue, just that chronic inflammation alone can develop into esophageal cancer, one of the most lethal types of cancer in the upper GI tract. 

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