, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 88-94
Date: 24 Oct 2008

Prevalence of Symptoms and Use of Medication for Gastroesophageal Reflux in an Australian Community

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Abstract

Introduction

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is common in Western societies, although the prevalence of reflux symptoms in the community is not well described. In this study we determined the prevalence of symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux and other “esophageal” symptoms, and the consumption of medication for reflux in an Australian community.

Patients and methods

A population sample designed to accurately reflect the characteristics of the population aged 15 years or older in the State of South Australia was studied. Demographic data; symptoms specific to reflux, dysphagia, and abdominal bloating; and the consumption of antireflux medication were determined in a face-to-face interview. The frequency and severity of heartburn and dysphagia were assessed with analog scales.

Results

A total of 2,973 people (age range: 15–95 years) were interviewed between September and December 2006. Approximately half experienced the symptom of heartburn; 21.2% experienced heartburn at least once a month, and 12.4% described frequent symptoms of heartburn (at least a few times each week). Of those with heartburn, 25.0% graded it as moderate or severe, 10.9% reported some dysphagia for solid foods, and 6.9% reported dysphagia for liquids. 3.7% described dysphagia for solids at least once a month. Abdominal bloating was reported by 48.2%. 16.9% were taking medications for reflux symptoms (10.1% proton pump inhibitors, 1.2% H2-receptor antagonists, 2.1% simple antacids, 3.4% alternative medications). Heartburn was more common in individuals who consumed medication. There were significant associations between heartburn and bloating, and between heartburn and dysphagia.

Conclusions

Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux and the use of medications to treat such symptoms are very common in the community of South Australia. Nearly 1 in 7 people over the age of 15 consume medication for the treatment of symptoms of reflux.