By: Beth Walsh for Reflux1
Hospitalizations for treating disorders caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) more than doubled between 1998 and 2005, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Hospitalizations of patients with milder forms of GERD increased by 216 percent during the same time period.
Symptoms of GERD include: a sore, raw throat or hoarse voice; frequent sour taste of acid, especially when lying down; a feeling of burping acid into the mouth; trouble swallowing; dry cough; and bad breath. Occasional heartburn doesn’t mean you have GERD, but those with the condition have symptoms like heartburn very often and it causes serious discomfort. See a doctor if you have persistent heartburn or other symptoms.
Certain foods and medications that can worsen GERD symptoms including citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeinated beverages, fatty and fried foods, spicy food and tomato-based foods.
Treatment for GERD depends on how severe your symptoms are. Simple lifestyle changes can help or even prevent the condition, such as quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, losing weight if you are overweight, eating small meals, avoiding caffeine and foods that trigger reflux.
Patients with GERD have stomach acid backing up into the esophagus, causing extreme, chronic heartburn. If left untreated, GERD can cause esophageal disorders such as bleeding, trouble swallowing, Barrett's esophagus (a precancerous condition), and even esophageal cancer.
The increases in hospitalizations are due, at least in part, to the growing obesity problem in the United States, say the authors.
The AHRQ also found that:
• Hospitalizations specifically for GERD increased roughly 5 percent during the period - from roughly 91,000 to 95,000.
• Among these, admissions of patients who had severe symptoms, such as anemia, vomiting and weight loss, increased by 39 percent. Hospitalizations for patients with less serious symptoms, such as hoarseness and chronic coughing, bloating, or belching, rose 43 percent.
• Hospitalizations for GERD in children ages 2 to 17 rose by 84 percent during the period, and 42 percent for infants under age 2.
The spike in hospitalizations for children may be due to an increase in surgical treatments as those treatments have become less invasive and therefore less risky for younger patients.
The report also showed that more people hospitalized with GERD displayed secondary symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, hoarseness and persistent cough.
Awareness of GERD has increased which may be partly attributable to the heavy marketing of heartburn medications.
The report says that physicians need to take acid reflux seriously and treat it as a chronic condition.