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Long-term Acid Reflux May Cause Esophageal Cancer?

If you suddenly have a feeling like something heavy sitting on your chest during sleep, wake up in a sweat, and feeling tightness in your chest. You may scare yourself and think that it’s caused by a ghost, or you may suspect that you are suffering from heart attack. In fact, it may also be caused by Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). “Acid Reflux” and “Heartburn” are some of its common symptoms.


Long-term Acid Reflux

May Cause Esophageal Cancer?


Many people mistakenly believe that acid reflux is caused by excessive stomach acid. In fact, the main cause is a problem with the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), which is a bundle of muscles between the esophagus and the stomach. Under normal circumstances, the LES would only temporarily open to let food enters the stomach when we eat, or occasionally open to release the stomach gas after meal. For the rest of time, it should be closed to prevent the food and stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. However, when we often eat late-night meal & greasy foods, sleep on a full stomach, eat too fast, consume too much stimulating beverages like coffee & alcohol, etc., all these bad eating habits may loosen the LES, and increase the chance of acid reflux.

When the stomach acid irritates the esophageal for a long time and creates a burning sensation, symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, coughing and hoarseness will appear. Over time, it will increase the risk of esophageal cancer.


What to do if Acid Reflux medicine

cannot stop the nighttime symptoms?


To prevent GERD, the first step is to cultivate healthy eating habits, learn to manage stress and stay cheerful. If the symptoms have already appeared, and affecting your daily life and sleep, you should seek medical advice asap. Doctors may provide endoscopy or pH test, and find out the appropriate treatment for you. Among the treatment for GERD, medication for reducing acid production is probably the best-known therapy.

However, if the nighttime symptoms remain after taking the medicine, you can also try the positional therapy recommended by the international authority on gastroenterology. By slightly elevating the upper body and maintaining the left-sided sleep position, under the principle of gravity (figure 3), the chance of the contents in the stomach exposure to the esophagus during sleep is reduced, which may relieve the symptoms like heartburn or persistent cough at night.

Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)

Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)

Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES)

Stomach's Condition when Sleeping on the Right Side

Stomach's Condition when Sleeping on the Left Side

Stomach's Condition when using Reflux Relief System

If you suspect that you are suffering from GERD, you can click here to complete a simple self-assessment designed by experts from the Department of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong (HKUMed) to get a preliminary understanding of your risk of having GERD.


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