If not controlled, GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can lead to esophageal bleeding and ulcers, and it can also increase a person's risk of developing esophageal cancer, explains WebMD. Severe GERD may also lead to Barrett's esophagus, a condition that develops when cells in the esophageal lining are destroyed.
GERD develops when acid from the stomach continuously leaks back into the esophagus. The primary symptoms of GERD often include an acid-like taste in the mouth and heartburn, a burning sensation that starts in the abdomen and travels upward toward the middle of the chest and sometimes as high as the neck, according to WebMD. Acid that travels to the chest area may cause pain that feels like heart pain, and acid that travels to the neck can cause symptoms such as dry cough, sore throat, breathing problems, earaches and bad breath.
Pregnancy, obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption are just some risk factors for developing gastroesophageal reflux problems. Certain medications can also cause acid reflux issues, including beta-blockers that treat high blood pressure and heart disease, bronchodilators used to treat asthma, sedatives that treat anxiety or insomnia and tricyclic antidepressants, notes MedlinePlus. Dopamine-active drugs used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease can also cause heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux.