The complications of GERD result from the damage inflicted by the gastric juice on the esophageal lining or mucosa and the respiratory lining. These include esophagitis, stricture or narrowing and Barrett esophagus. From repetitive aspiration, recurrent pneumonia and progressive pulmonary fibrosis can occur.
The prevalence and severity of complications is related to the extent of loss of the gastroesophageal sphincter function, defects in esophageal clearance of reflux juices and the content of reflux gastric juice. Nearly half of the patients without complications have a defective sphincter between the esophagus and stomach. As reflux progresses, the muscular function of the esophagus can deteriorate.