Potential complications of acid reflux include difficulty swallowing, bleeding or ulcers in the esophagus, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and a condition called Barrett's esophagus, states Cleveland Clinic. Doctors often use antacid medications to treat acid reflux, but these may cause digestive problems, especially in children, notes Healthline.
Acid reflux sufferers report feeling a tight throat or a choking sensation as a result of tissue scarring over time, says Cleveland Clinic. Ulcers and bleeding result from inflammation of the esophageal lining. Over time, irritated cells in the esophagus may develop abnormalities that sometimes become cancerous.
Prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, reduce acid secretion in the stomach, and they are very effective in treating adult acid reflux, explains Healthline. Very young children who take PPIs sometimes experience constipation as a result. When they stop taking the medication, acid reflux may return because their stomachs produce too much acid. Doctors exercise caution and employ blood tests to rule out other conditions before prescribing PPIs for infants and young children.
Acid reflux occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, fails to operate correctly, according to WebMD. If this valve shifts above the diaphragm, it causes a condition called a hiatal hernia, which allows acid to escape the stomach. Other factors that contribute to acid reflux include smoking, consuming spicy or fatty foods, pregnancy, reclining after a large meal, and drinking alcohol, coffee, tea or carbonated beverages.