GERD will not Necessarily Go Away on its Own - Signs and symptoms feel common, but may be more serious than they appear

    MONTREAL, March 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Frequent heartburn, stomach pain,
excessive burping or nausea? Common symptoms, yes, but you may also be
experiencing typical symptoms of acid reflux disease - a condition that
affects close to 30 per cent of adult Canadians.(1) Acid reflux can also occur
in infants and children, although the incidence is lower than in adults and
symptoms may be different.
    Many of us have occasional heartburn. Mild, infrequent symptoms that do
not affect our overall daily life are not considered signs of acid reflux
disease or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). However, if symptoms occur
three or more times per week, or if they are growing worse, they may be caused
by GERD - the most common stomach acid-related disease in Canada.(2),(3)
    "GERD in adults seldom goes away on its own," says Gail Attara, Executive
Director of the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, a national health
charity. "It's a very common condition in adults, one that is very real and
serious for many Canadians. While some diet and lifestyle changes, such as
restricting fat intake and avoiding smoking and alcohol, might diminish
symptoms slightly, patients are not to blame for this medical condition. GERD
can rule a person's daily life and can be extremely uncomfortable and
disturbing," she adds.
    Surveys have shown that 13 per cent of Canadian adults have
moderate-to-severe heartburn symptoms at least once per week.(2) In children
over the age of three years, from five to ten per cent have symptoms that may
be due to GERD.(4)
    GERD also carries a significant personal and economic burden. Studies
show that quality of life for patients with regular and persistent heartburn
is considered far worse than for those with diabetes, high blood pressure,
mild heart failure and arthritis.(2) In Canada, the cost of managing GERD is
over $670-million per year.(2)

    How is GERD treated?

    There are a number of options available to manage and treat GERD. For
patients experiencing occasional heartburn, lifestyle modifications including
wearing loose fitting clothes, avoiding lying down within two hours of eating,
weight reduction, stopping or reducing smoking, decreasing alcohol consumption
and elevating the head of the bed by eight inches can be helpful.(3)
    Antacids or low dose H2RA blocker medications available without a
prescription, such as Zantac(R), Pepcid(R) or Axid(R), may provide relief for
mild or infrequent symptoms, particularly symptoms triggered by food.(2)
However, for patients with moderate-to-severe acid reflux, treatment with
prescription medications is usually required.(2)
    "If people are taking antacids on a regular basis and not getting relief,
it may be a sign of a more significant health condition that can be easily
treated," says Dr. David Morgan, Associate Professor, Division of
Gastroenterology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. "For many, treatment
with prescription medications can be effective in managing GERD. Due to the
nature of the condition - which sometimes manifests itself when you least
expect or want it to - treatments that are convenient, fast-acting, pleasant
tasting and dissolve quickly are welcomed."
    Prescription medications in the proton pump inhibitor or PPI category for
treatment of GERD include:
    - Prevacid FasTab(R) (Abbott) - a new strawberry flavoured,
      disintegrating  on-the-tongue formulation which can be taken without
    - Prevacid(R) (Abbott) - delayed-release capsules
    - Losec(R) (AstraZeneca) - tablets or capsules
    - Nexium(R) (AstraZeneca) - tablets
    - Pantoloc(R) (Altana Pharma, a Nycomed company) - tablets
    - Pariet(R) (Janssen-Ortho) - tablets

    Patients being treated for GERD may be started on a PPI for approximately
four to eight weeks in order to assess the effectiveness of treatment.(2)

    About GERD

    GERD occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. In normal
digestion, the ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, the lower
esophageal sphincter, opens to allow food to pass into the stomach and then
closes rapidly to prevent food from flowing back. With GERD, the sphincter may
relax inappropriately, or be displaced into the chest by a hiatal hernia, and
not be able to function effectively resulting in back flow or reflux of
stomach contents causing discomfort.(2)
    With GERD, some patients experience heartburn or a bitter or sour taste in
their mouth. Other atypical symptoms can include a persistent sore throat,
hoarseness, chronic cough, difficult or painful swallowing, bad breath,
asthma, or unexplained chest pain. Moderate-to-severe forms of GERD may result
in damage to the lining of the lower esophagus. Left untreated, more
significant complications may include bleeding or ulceration of the esophagus,
a condition known as esophagitis.(5) Chronic GERD in adults may also cause a
pre-malignant condition, Barrett's esophagus, which has a six to eight per
cent lifetime risk of developing into cancer.(2),(4),(6)

    Interview opportunity

    Speak with Gail Attara, Executive Director, Canadian Society of Intestinal
Research, about GERD, its impact and how to manage and treat this condition.
The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research is a registered Canadian charity
dedicated to funding education and research regarding gastrointestinal
diseases and disorders. Governed by a voluntary Board of Directors, the
Society has a large membership that includes patients and medical
professionals. CSIR is celebrating its 30th year of supporting patients in
Canada. Visit for more information on the Canadian Society of
Intestinal Research and GERD.
    Should you have specific medical questions about GERD, an interview with a
Canadian gastroenterology specialist can be arranged.


    (1) Veldhuyzen van Zanten, S, Flook N, China N, Armstrong D, et al. An
    evidence-based approach to the management of uninvestigated dyspepsia in
    the era of Helicobacter pylori. CMAJ 2000;162 (12 Suppl):S3-22.

    (2) Armstrong D, Marshall JK, Chiba N, et al. Canadian consensus
    conference on the management of gastroesophageal reflux disease in adults
    - update 2004.  Can J Gastro 2005;19(1): 15-35.

    (3) Cheng D, Burry L. Update on the management of acid-related disorders:
    a Canadian perspective. Pharmacy Practice CE lesson. March 2006.

    (4) Hassall E, Faure C, Sherman P, Butzner JD, Lévesque D. Diagnosis and
    management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Paediatric  & Child
    Health. In Press

    (5) Retrieved September 26, 2006 from

    (6) Vakil N, Veldhuyzen van Zanten S, Kahrilas P, et al. The Montreal
    definition and classification of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a
    global evidence-based consensus. Am J Gastrol 2006;101:1900-1920.

For further information:

For further information: or to schedule an interview with a medical
expert, please contact: Edward Reyes, MECA Médicomm, (416) 425-9143, ext.227,

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