Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short, occurs when acid reflux becomes chronic over time. Unfortunately, Veterans are more likely to develop this condition due to a series of factors – including service connected conditions and an overall lifestyle that is both physically and mentally demanding during service. This condition can be made worse by diet and lifestyle factors, including the usage of NSAIDs – something many of us turn to when we have mild pain or a headache.
Not only is GERD eligible on its own for VA disability benefits – it can also cause other claimable conditions. Whether classed as a primary or secondary to service connected condition, Veterans with GERD should be aware of their options for benefits and the complications that the condition can cause.
The following are 5 conditions that can be caused by GERD:
Erosive esophagitis occurs when the tissue of our esophagus has been damaged, including inflammation, irritation, and/or swelling. It's one of the consequences of GERD when it goes untreated – a result of repeated stomach acid flowing up the esophagus over time. The early symptoms can include pain, difficulty swallowing, and bleeding. Consulting with a medical professional can give you answers on the extent of the damage done, along with the best way of treatment.
A gastric ulcer (or stomach ulcer) is an open sore that develops on the stomach lining as a result of acid damaging the digestive tract. Not all stomach ulcers are painful – but some are, and they can cause indigestion, heartburn, and nausea. GERD contributes to their formation by the persistent acid reflux, which weakens the stomach's protective barrier. The link between these two conditions is important to understand when diagnosing and treating – along with getting the right level of VA disability benefits.
Sleep apnea is common among Veterans. Whether due to the connection between PTSD and sleep apnea or simply the stressful impacts on the body from military service, the VA provides benefits for sleep apnea on a continuous and common basis. GERD can cause sleep apnea due to its symptoms worsening during the night. When stomach acid flows back into the throat, it can obstruct airways, causing pauses in breathing (sleep apnea). This is important to connect for VA disability purposes and treatment planning.
It's not just your inner organs that can suffer from GERD, either. Stomach acid can severely damage your dental health – weakening tooth enamel. This, over time, leads to a series of issues: Sensitivity, cavities, gum disease, and discomfort. In addition to combatting dental damage with effective dental care, it's also essential to manage and treat GERD to keep your teeth in a healthy condition.
When acid reflux occurs repeatedly from GERD, the nasal passages can become irritated – leading to persistent sinus inflammation. When the sinuses remain inflamed for 12 weeks or longer, it becomes known as chronic sinusitis. If GERD is properly treated, chronic sinusitis as a secondary condition typically goes away with treatment.
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