Health facts regarding gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.

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Gastrointestinal diseases

Acid and the stomach

The stomach produces acid to help sterilise and digest ingested food and drink. The lining of the stomach is normally protected from the action of the acid, but problems can arise if stomach contents enter parts of the intestinal tract that are not designed to be acid-resistant, if acid production is excessive, or if the acid-resistance of the stomach itself is compromised.

Acid-related symptoms are very common. Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD) or peptic ulceration are the major manifestations of acid-related illness.

GORD - the most common gastrointestinal disorder

About 20–40% of adults in western countries have GORD-related symptoms from time to time. Symptoms that are persistent (eg, occurring more than twice per week) or severe may interfere with normal activities and reduce quality of life.

GORD symptoms

GORD can cause diverse symptoms affecting a range of organ systems and body functions. Although acid-related complaints such as heartburn, acid regurgitation, or pain on swallowing are a common feature of GORD, patients may suffer from symptoms such as the following:

  • Upper abdominal/stomach complaints
  • Lower abdominal/digestive complaints
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Other complaints (eg, related to breathing or the throat)
  • Reduced general well-being.

Incidence of GORD

The incidence of GORD rises with age. Prevalence is particularly high in women aged 64–74 years and in men aged 45–74 years.

Helicobacter pylori and peptic ulcers

The discovery that the majority of patients with gastric or duodenal ulcers are infected with the organism H. pylori has revolutionised the management of these conditions. Eradication of the infection aids healing and prevents relapse.

NSAIDs and ulcers

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are widely used for the treatment of inflammatory and painful conditions such as arthritis. However, in some patients, NSAIDs can damage the lining of the stomach or duodenum and cause ulcers.

Patients at risk of peptic ulcers who need the pain relief afforded by NSAIDs can be protected by long-term treatment with a PPI.

Respiratory diseases

Gaining a better understanding of asthma and discovering ways to decrease the global burden of this common chronic disease

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. It is estimated that approximately 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma.

Asthma is a worldwide public health problem. Evidence shows that the prevelance of asthma has been increasing in many countries over the past 20 years. However, data shows that the highest prevelance of the disease is in "westernised” countries with large urban populations.

As more and more developing nations adopt a more “western” lifestyle, the incidence of asthma is expected to rise dramatically.

Impact and Burden of COPD in major countries

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that COPD (Chronical Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) affects 600 million people worldwide, and is the fourth leading cause of death, killing more than 2.74 million people each year.  Its prevalence is highest in countries where cigarette smoking is very common. Prevalence in specific countries include:

Europe  Prevalence varies from 4-10% in Western Europe.  Estimates: Spain 1.8 million, U.K. 3 million, Germany 2.7 million, Italy 2.6 million, France 2.6 million.
U.S. In 2001, it is estimated that 13.3 million U.S. adults, 18 years of age and older, suffered from COPD; about 24 million had evidence of impaired lung function.
Australia Third leading cause of burden of disease and is the most burdensome respiratory disease
New Zealand Second leading cause of burden of disease (only to stroke). 

Mortality Rates

Morbidity increases with age. In the U.S., COPD death rates are very low among people under age 45, but is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death among those over age 45.

In Australia it is the fourth leading cause of death, the leading cause among indigenous Australians. In the UK  it is the third leading cause of death, and accounts for 20 percent of respiratory related deaths. In the US it is the fourth leading cause of death (behind heart disease, cancer and stroke); projected to be the third leading cause by the year 2020



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