Heartburn patients unaware of long-term risk

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The Health and Fitness Blog

The Health & Fitness Blog is a collection of diary entries, news, gossip and other Health and fitness related information.

Heartburn patients unaware of long-term risk
25th of February 2006, Adelaide, Australia. The majority of people suffering from chronic heartburn – known as gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD) – are unaware of its potentially serious health consequences, according to new results from a large multinational survey released today.

The findings from the Burning Desires survey showed that two-thirds (64 percent) of people with symptoms of GERD did not believe their condition to have any serious long-term health risks – even though estimates suggest that up to 45 per cent of GERD sufferers develop inflammation of the esophagus (reflux esophagitis).

GERD has a significant impact on health-related quality of life (HRQL), and if left untreated, the repeated flow of stomach acid can damage the gullet, causing discomfort and pain. Approximately 10–15 per cent of patients with chronic GERD undergoing endoscopy will be diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus, a pre-cancerous change in the tissue lining of the esophagus that may ultimately lead to adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
Other complications of prolonged acid reflux, such as narrowing of the esophagus and ulceration, can be painful and might cause internal bleeding.

Professor Philippe DuCrotte, Professor of Gastroenterology, Université de Rouen et CHU, France, said that the survey results clearly demonstrate a need for further education among heartburn sufferers, particularly those who have not sought medical treatment.

"It is very important that people suffering from frequent heartburn don't ignore their symptoms, as there can be consequences of delaying diagnosis and treatment. By visiting the doctor earlier, patients can become better educated and more serious problems can be avoided through correct and effective treatment."

Further results from the study showed that GERD sufferers receiving medical treatment were almost twice as likely to be aware of the long term health risks associated with their condition than undiagnosed sufferers.

Previous studies have linked chronic untreated heartburn with an increased risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma which is a rare cancer. One study showed that patients who had experienced very longstanding, severe and unresolved heartburn had a 43.5 times greater risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma than those without symptoms, however the absolute risk is low for developing esophageal adenocarcinoma.

The latest PPI, Nexium® (esomeprazole) can provide freedom from heartburn, the most common symptom of GERD, and has been shown to provide an improvement in health related quality of life. Nexium works by deactivating the proton pumps that produce stomach acid, reducing the amount of acid that is in the stomach, helping to treat heartburn and other symptoms of GERD. Several comparative clinical trials with more than 15,000 patients with Nexium®, including the EXPO, the EAZEE and Metropole studies, confirm that NexiumÒ provides superior acid control which translates into clinical benefits. Nexium is only available on prescription.

Posted : 23/02/2006 17:08:33

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