Gastroesophageal reflux affects one third of US adults

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a disorder that can cause heartburn as well as acid reflux. Now a new study published in Gastroenterology confirms how common the disorder is.

The study, conducted by researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, therefore, considers one of the most common stomach ailments that sees stomach acid flow to the upper part of the stomach through the esophagus. Usually this occurs when the lower oesophageal sphincter, a muscle that does nothing but open and close to allow food to reach the stomach, tends to relax too much.

Reflux usually causes a burning sensation in the throat and chest accompanied by heartburn. The same reflux can cause regurgitation and only in the most serious cases can it lead to tissue damage.

To arrive at the result they achieved, the researchers analyzed data from more than 71,000 people aged 18 years or more living in the United States, a relatively large study that, according to Brennan Spiegel, professor of medicine and corresponding author of the study, defines as one of “one of the largest and most diverse population-based studies on gastrointestinal symptoms ever conducted”.

Of all the people surveyed, 44.1% reported having experienced symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux in the past and 30.9% of them in the last week. According to the data they acquired, more than half of people with gastroesophageal reflux disorder taking drugs known as proton pump inhibitors reported that they still had persistent symptoms.

These drugs serve to reduce the level of acid in the stomach but, as reported in the press release presenting the study, may have side effects according to the Food and Drug Administration. These drugs include lansoprazole (Prevacid), exomeprazole (Nexium), magnesium omeprazole (Prilosec) and omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate (Zegerid).

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