GERD Burns MillionsLOADING...
The fire was starting to eat away at Tom Dolan’s career. Just about every day, he felt the burning inside.
He was one of the world’s best athletes. He decided he would not hand over his life to an illness.
The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which occurs when stomach acid moves in the wrong direction, flowing back or “refluxing” up the esophagus, the tube between the throat and the stomach. The esophagus is not designed to cope with stomach acid and is easily injured. The acid refluxing into the esophagus produces the burning symptoms and sometimes damages the esophagus, leading to inflammation and ulcers or even Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous change in the lining.
So Dolan wasn’t aware that his symptoms of heartburn and bloating were an actual disorder. But he saw a doctor anyway. And once he was diagnosed, he started taking medication which controls the condition.
“I really had to learn about GERD and understand my body,” Dolan, an Olympian swimmer, says. “I had to control my symptoms, not have them control my life.”
Dolan is like the 7 million Americans who have GERD and don’t know it.
“People talk to each other and say, ‘I have heartburn.’ But they don’t talk to their doctor about the problem,” says Stephen A. Brunton, M.D., a clinical professor in the departments of family medicine at the University of California, Irvine, and University of Southern California. “When people have it for a long period of time, they just assume it’s a part of life,” he says.
A recent survey indicates Brunton may be right. Nearly 50 percent of people experience symptoms that may be related to GERD while at work, according to a study sponsored by Eisai Inc. and Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. The symptoms can include heartburn, bad breath, regurgitation, belching, bloating, feeling excessively full after meals and refluxed liquid in the mouth that may produce a bitter or sour taste of acid in the back of the throat.
At least nine out of 10 Americans, or 88 percent, say they have at least one symptom, such as bloating or gas (71 percent), heartburn (62 percent), and persistent belching (49 percent). On average, those who experienced these symptoms say they occur one to two days a week – which can add to as much as 104 days a year.
Nearly 70 percent of those who said they had the symptoms said they have not talked with a doctor about the condition.
Several classes of medications are available over the counter for treatment of GERD, including antacids, H2 blockers and a medication that stops acid production. H2 blockers medicines reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces by blocking a chemical called histamine 2, which signals the stomach to make acid. Proton pump inhibitors limit acid secretion in the stomach. This secretion is what backs up into the esophagus. Talk to your doctor if you are having symptoms of GERD.