Here are a few questions to ask yourself if acid reflux or heartburn is part of your life:
How many times per week do you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and/or heartburn?
How often are the symptoms so prevalent that you have to leave a social gathering?
Does the condition make you cut back on physical activity?
And most importantly, have you ever discussed GERD or heartburn with your doctor?
These were the types of questions asked in a recent survey of 1,000 American adults defined as GERD and/or heartburn sufferers. To the surprise of the American Gastroenterological Association, almost one in five sufferers has never discussed their condition with a health care provider (HCP). In addition, the majority of sufferers describe their GERD and/or heartburn as moderate to severe.
“These findings highlight the importance of active, ongoing conversations about the symptoms and triggers of GERD and/or heartburn between sufferers and HCPs and suggest that resources to help open and improve the lines of communications should be made available,” said the AGA in a March 23, 2011 media release.
The survey went out to adults who said they experienced GERD and/or persistent heartburn symptoms two or more times per week when not treating the condition. Defined as “sufferers,” these respondents indicated through the survey data that patient/doctor dialogue offers room for improvement.
About three out of four sufferers described their symptoms as moderate to severe; one-third of respondents said symptoms have sometimes forced them to leave or cancel social engagements; and almost one in three respondents said they have had to limit their physical activities.
Dr. Prateek Sharma, professor of medicine in the gastroenterology division of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, said in the AGA release that greater understanding of patients’ GERD symptoms -- the intensity and frequency -- is key to appropriate management and treatment of the symptoms.
“Some of these findings suggest that many patients trivialize their symptoms and thus don’t talk to their health care provider about the impact GERD is having on their lives,” Sharma said. “I encourage my patients to be open and descriptive about what they're experiencing. Then, together we can work to determine a plan of action to address their specific needs.”
The AGA conducted the survey along with Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America. In response to the results they created a doctor-patient communication tool, which is available at http://www.gastro.org/GERDtracker.
Article edited by Alison Stanton