GERD can be a hard disease to gauge. Heartburn is the number one symptom of GERD, and it typically flares up during moments that we all have every day (heavy meals, lying down after a meal). As such, millions of Americans experience it a few times a week, which is normal and is not suggestive of any worse malady. But because it can become a worse disease, acid reflux treatment should be taken up quickly, in the form of a doctor's visit. Recent reports, in fact, show that many people are doing this.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, between 1998 and 2005 there were 2 specific increases in GERD hospitalizations:

  • Those hospitalized for disorders caused by GERD rose 103%
  • Those hospitalized with a milder form of GERD rose 214%

These numbers are astounding. In the first case, hospitalizations doubled; in the second, they more than tripled. But what can account for them?

One factor, says the study, may be the obesity epidemic, given obesity's relationship with GERD, particularly for women. Indeed, losing weight, which generally involves cutting back on fatty foods, is a well-known and appropriate method of acid reflux treatment.

Another interesting thing about the numbers is how age and gender factors into them. According to the study, the elderly accounted for roughly 30% of hospitalizations with a primary GERD diagnosis, and 50% of all GERD diagnoses. However, patients age 18-34 accounting for the largest increase in discharges with any GERD diagnosis at 273%. But on the other hand, this age group had the steepest decline in primary GERD diagnosis, down 16%. Further, GERD hospital stays occurred more among women than men.

In the large picture, though, this information doesn't tell us that more people are contracting GERD. Rather it tells us that people who think they may be contracting GERD are getting smarter about their symptoms. Whether experiencing a small increase or a sudden onset of heartburn, people are seeking acid reflux treatment when the worst-case scenario-the onset of GERD-could be in its infancy.

Everyone knows that the faster you catch a disease, the better chance you have of treating it. GERD is especially important in this regard because it can start so innocuously. It could be a bitter taste in your mouth after a meal, or a pain behind your breastbone while you exercise. Often times over-the-counter antacids will suffice as acid reflux treatment. But sometimes you need to see the doctor. This is one of the times it's better to be a statistic.

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (2008, January 28). "Increase In GERD Hospitalizations Underscores Importance Of Seeking Treatment Early."

World Journal of Gastroenterology (2007, September 17). "GERD Linked To Obesity In Females."