• Gastrointestinal Disorders

    What are Gastrointestinal Disorders?

    Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders affect the esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. The most common are ulcers, acid reflux disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

    Peptic ulcers cause sores and inflammation in the stomach (gastric ulcers) or intestines (duodenal ulcers). Most ulcers are caused by the bacteria H. pylori and can be cured with antibiotics. About 1 in 10 people in the U.S will have ulcers in their lifetime.

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, affects an estimated 20% of people in the U.S. each month. GERD is recurring heartburn caused by the presence of stomach acid in the esophagus, which often causes esophageal damage. This happens when the band of muscles that creates a barrier between the stomach and esophagus relaxes at inappropriate times, or is damaged. In GERD, heartburn happens frequently (more than twice a week) and gets worse, causing chest pain and pain swallowing. GERD is a recurring disorder, but long-term treatment is usually effective.

    Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, affects between 9% and 23% of the population. An estimated 10% and 15% of people in the U.S. have IBS symptoms, which are the second most common cause of sick leave after the common cold. IBS is a lifelong disease that disrupts GI function, causing diarrhea or constipation, or both. About one-third of IBS sufferers have constipation-dominant disease; one-third have diarrhea-dominant disease; and the remaining third have mixed symptoms. IBS is difficult to diagnose and many people don’t seek treatment, but diagnostic methods and treatments are improving.

    For more information, patients and families can contact the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders at http://www.iffgd.org/.