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05-01-2012 | Gastroenterology | Article

Reflux symptoms prevalence on the rise


Free abstract

MedWire News: Findings from the HUNT study shed light on the epidemiology of gastroesophageal reflux symptoms (GERS), showing an increase in prevalence and a low likelihood of spontaneous improvement.

The Nord-Trøndelag Health Study 2 and 3 included data for county residents for 1995-1997 (n=58,869) and 2006-2008 (n=44,997). As part of the health surveys, the participants were asked to state the degree of GERS over the past 12 months, and 29,610 residents were followed-up for an average of 11 years.

The annual average incidence of any and severe GERS in the population was 3.07% and 0.23%, respectively, the researchers report in the journal Gut.

Of concern, the prevalence of any GERS increased by a significant 30% between 1995-1997 and 2006-2009, from 31.4% to 40.9%. The prevalence of severe GERS increased by 24% during the same time period, from 5.4% to 6.7%, while the presence of weekly GERS increased by 47%, from 11.6% to 17.1%.

Analysis revealed that the incidence of GERS was lowest in women aged less than 40 years. Incidence was stable in men but increased with age in women, so that after the age of 70 years there was no significant difference in prevalence between the genders.

Eivind Ness-Jensen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Levanger) and co-authors suggest that the population increase in body mass index may explain the increasing prevalence as obesity is a risk factor for reflux.

Noting the impact of age and gender, however, they add: "Postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy seems to be a risk factor for [GERS] and may to some extent contribute to this pattern for women."

After excluding the 31% of patients who used antireflux medication at least once a week, spontaneous resolution of any and severe GERS was reported annually by 2.32% and 1.22% of the population. The likelihood of spontaneous GERS loss fell with increasing age.

"The substantial loss of [GERS], not due to antireflux medication, found in the present study, is partly conflicting with the presumed chronic character of [GERS] and the large use of regular antireflux medication in this population," the researchers observe.

The team concludes: "The increasing prevalence of [GERS] found in this study may call for a strengthened effort to investigate and treat this patient population, both due to the impact on health-related quality of life and the increasing incidence of adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus related to [GERS]."

By Lynda Williams

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