Entries in Acid Reflux (4)


New Device May Be Key to Controlling Acid Reflux, Study Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- For one in three Americans suffering from chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, a string of magnetic beads may bring relief.

According to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors wrapped the bracelet-like device around the valve between the esophagus and the stomach, keeping it closed when a person is not eating or drinking.

Acid reflux stems from complications with a deficient sphincter valve, a ring of muscle located at the bottom of the esophagus and the top of the stomach. This muscle normally stays constricted when a person is not eating, preventing acid and other digestive fluids from leaving the stomach and entering the esophagus.

After testing the device on 100 patients with chronic acid reflux, 92 patients reported symptom relief. Eighty-seven trial patients were able to quit acid-suppressing drugs.

Dr. C. Daniel Smith, chair of surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Florida and co-author of the study, says he thinks the new device is "going to be a game changer" and provides another option for physicians and the patients managing reflux.

"I think It's going to be an option for a lot of patients that today have just been suffering with medicine, with incomplete control of their symptoms," he says.

According to Smith, acid reflux not only causes pain for millions of Americans (roughly one in three people are affected in the U.S., according to the American Gastroesophageal Association), it can be life-threatening.

"And then at the more extreme end of reflux, you can get damage to the esophagus that leads to what we call Barret's esophagus; and that's a pre-cancerous condition that can eventually lead to esophageal cancer," Smith explains.

The study authors note this is the "first new, safe and effective treatment" for managing the painful disease in 20 years, but Smith cautions against using the device for mild cases.

"It is really not for the patient who has just occasional heartburn and needs to take an antacid once in a while. It's really more for patients who have chronic heartburn and are dependent on medicine on a daily basis."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Reports of Acid Reflux Symptoms Double, Study Finds

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly 20 percent of Americans live with acid reflux, according to the National Institutes of Health. But now one of the largest studies to look at the prevalence of acid reflux found that nearly 50 percent more people experience it today than a decade ago.

The study, published in the journal Gut, followed more than 30,000 people in Norway for 11 years. At the start of the study, nearly 12 percent of those surveyed said they experienced acid reflux symptoms at least one a week.

Researchers saw a 47 percent increase in those who reported weekly acid reflux symptoms by the end of the study. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus and causes a burning sensation in the throat and chest, also known as heartburn. Consuming acidic or fried and fatty foods can bring it on.

While the study does not mention why acid reflux is on the rise, the researchers suggest that the increasing numbers may be linked to a rise in obesity rates.

"The interabdominal pressure that goes along with being obese allows for more reflux," said Dr. Gerard Mullin, associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, who was not involved in the Gut study. "It does seem like it's paralleling the prevalence of obesity."

Cigarette smoking and stress can also lead to acid reflux, Mullin said.

And the risk of developing acid reflux increases with age, especially for women. Women older than 60 reported feeling symptoms of acid reflux nearly 6 percent more than younger women, according to the study.

The researchers speculated that this may be because hormone replacement medications can raise a woman's risk of developing acid reflux.

Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, are often the first-line of treatment recommended by doctors to kick the reflux.

Over-the-counter acid blocker medications are arguably the most popular method for keeping acid reflux at bay. Around 98 percent of those with severe acid reflux and about 31 percent of those with more mild cases reported taking medication, according to the study.

But long-term acid suppression can lead to thinning bones and gastrointestinal infections, said Mullin.

Long-term acid reflux that's left untreated can lead to esophageal cancer. While esophageal cancer rates have decreased over the past decade, the American Cancer Society estimates that 17,000 new cases of esophageal cancer were diagnosed in 2011, and nearly 15,000 Americans died of the disease.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Reports of Frequent Heartburn Double, Study Finds

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(OSLO, Norway) -- For many, the rich food, abundant alcohol, weight gain and stress of the holidays likely lead to one thing: heartburn.  But new research finds that an increasing number of people struggle with the burning and pressure of surging stomach acid all year long.

A new study reports that the number of people who frequently experience symptoms of heartburn, also called acid reflux, has almost doubled in the past decade.  Acid reflux can mean more than just discomfort -- too much surging stomach acid can create a web of scars in the esophagus, causing food to get stuck on its way down.  Research also has connected acid reflux with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, particularly if it is chronic and untreated.

Researchers in Norway followed a group of nearly 30,000 Norwegians from 1995 until 2009, tracking their responses to a national health survey.  They found that the number of people reporting symptoms of acid reflux at least once a week ballooned from 31 percent at the study's beginning to 40 percent by the end, an increase of 30 percent.  Responders reporting severe acid reflux rose by 24 percent, from 5 percent in 1995 to nearly 7 percent in 2009.

Women seemed to be more affected by the disease than men, and acid reflux became more common in people of both sexes as they crept toward middle age.

"For these people, their quality of life is majorly affected," said study author Dr. Eivind Ness-Jensen, a gastroenterologist at Levanger Hospital in Norway.  "Maybe more alarming is that the symptoms are associated with esophageal cancer."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Acid Reflux Drugs: Public Citizen Petitions FDA for Stricter Warnings

Stocksbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The watchdog group Public Citizen is calling for stricter warnings on popular acid reflux drugs called proton pump inhibitors.

In a petition filed Tuesday, Public Citizen urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require a black box warning -- the strongest warning possible -- on the drugs' packaging detailing their side effects and potential to cause dependence among users.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said he hopes stricter warnings will curb unnecessary use of the drugs.

"These drugs have a use, but they're grossly overused," Wolfe said. "We hope use will go down when doctors and patients know the risks."

Some such risks, including bone fractures, infections and heart rhythm abnormalities, are listed in fine print on the drugs' packaging. But the potential for the drugs to exacerbate acid reflux when patients discontinue use -- a relatively recent observation -- is not.

"There's absolutely no warning that these drugs can cause dependence," Wolfe said, adding that he hopes a black box warning will prompt doctors and patients to consider other, safer options first.

Proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium, Protonix and a slew of generic versions are approved to treat heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease and gastric ulcers. But up to two-thirds of people using the drugs fail to meet those diagnostic criteria, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. And often less intensive treatments, such as antacids, can soothe symptoms sufficiently.

"It's absolutely true that too many people are on these medications," said Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "I think lifestyle changes can make a big difference in patients' symptoms."

Quitting smoking, losing weight, and avoiding certain foods such as garlic, onions, coffee and carbonated beverages can help minimize symptoms, Wolf said.

"I think physicians need to be aware of the medications' risks and get patients to try to change lifestyle changes and antacids first," Wolf said. "I absolutely agree we need to taper off these drugs."

A 2009 study published in Gastroenterology found that proton pump inhibitors could actually provoke reflux disease when healthy people stopped taking them -- a discovery that could tilt the risk-benefit balance for patients who don't need the drugs.

"Since over half the people using these drugs don't even have conditions that warrant their use, you're essentially causing acid reflux disease," Public Citizen's Wolfe said of doctors who overprescribe proton pump inhibitors. "We want doctors to know that, for some patients, these drugs are possibly causing more harm than good."

Proton pump inhibitors are the third-highest-selling class of drugs in the United States. Nexium, made by AstraZeneca, has the second-highest retail sales among all drugs -- $4.8 billion in 2008. Some brands, such as Prilosec and Zegerid, are available in over-the-counter form.

The Public Citizen petition calls for black box warnings on prescription and over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors. A spokeswoman for the FDA declined to comment on the petition, saying only that the department would review it and respond to the organization that submitted it.

Public Citizen successfully lobbied the FDA in 2009 to add a black box warning to Botox, citing the potential for the product to spread from the point of injection and cause breathing and swallowing problems.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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