Survey Shows GERD Significantly Reduces Patients' Quality of Life

March 24, 2011

Poorly treated GERD has a significant impact on patients' lives and can lead to reduced physical and social activity.

Poorly treated GERD has a significant impact on patients’ lives and can lead to reduced physical and social activity.

Findings from the DISCUSS (Defining and Identifying GapS in CommUnication between GERD and/or Heartburn Sufferers and PhysicianS) survey show that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has a significant impact on patients’ lives and can lead to reduced physical and social activity and quality of life.

The DISCUSS survey, released by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc, sampled more than 1,000 US adults who identified themselves as having GERD and/or frequent and persistent heartburn and “who said they experience GERD and/or heartburn symptoms two or more times per week when not treating the condition.”

More than half of survey respondents said that currently they "occasionally" (39%) or "never" (19%) discuss GERD and/or heartburn symptoms with a health care provider. More than three-quarters of respondents (77%) described their GERD and/or heartburn symptoms as “moderate to severe,” and one-third (33%) reported that they had canceled social activities or left a social event early because of their symptoms.

Thirty-one percent of respondents reported having to limit their physical activity because of their GERD and/or heartburn symptoms; approximately two-thirds of those who reported limits on physical activity were women.

According to the news release announcing the DISCUSS survey results, these findings “highlight the importance of active, ongoing conversations about the symptoms and triggers of GERD and/or heartburn between sufferers and HCPs and suggest that resources to help open and improve the lines of communications should be made available.”

Prateek Sharma, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, MO, said “Some of these findings suggest that many patients trivialize their symptoms and thus don't talk to their health care provider about the impact GERD is having on their lives. I encourage my patients to be open and descriptive about what they're experiencing. Then, together we can work to determine a plan of action to address their specific needs.”

Additional survey findings

The survey also additional information about the ways in which GERD sufferers communicate with their physician or health care provider.

  • 34% of sufferers reported waiting 12 months or more after first experiencing symptoms to visit their doctor
  • 40% of respondents said they had not discussed GERD symptoms with their health care provider in the past 12 months
  • 22% said they do not discuss their symptoms until the end of the appointment when the doctor is leaving or only if the doctor asks
  • 74% of those who have spoken to their health care provider about their GERD and/or heartburn symptoms discuss the severity of their symptoms
  • 20% of respondents reported having trouble “getting their health care provider to understand the severity of their symptoms”
  • Commonly reported food triggers for GERD symptoms included spicy foods (74%), foods containing tomatoes (73%), fried or fatty foods (69%).
  • 70% of sufferers also reported that eating a large meal or eating too close to bedtime triggered GERD symptoms
  • 52% of patients said they would be interested in using a GERD symptom checklist (to be filled out prior to their appointment) to aid in communicating with their health care provider; 50% said a list of questions to ask their health care provider would also be useful

A GERD symptom tracking checklist and other tools to help patients track and manage their GERD are available at the AGA Patient Center.

HCPLive wants to know:

Do you encourage your patients who suffer from GERD or persistent heartburn to use checklists to track their symptoms?

Are you surprised by the survey results showing that patients frequently do not discuss their GERD symptoms with their physician? Does this match your experience with your patients?

In addition to checklists, are there other resources and tools you recommend to patients and/or colleagues to help manage GERD symptoms in patients?

What percentage of patients do you think self-medicate their GERD symptoms rather than seek professional medical advice and/or treatment?

What steps could patients and physicians take to improve their communication when it comes to discussing GERD?

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