Objective: To study prevalence and characteristics of symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux disease in the elderly.
Design: Survey by questionnaire of stratified random sample.
Setting: City of Turku, Finland.
Subjects: Population-based random sample consisting of non-institutionalized subjects aged 65 years or over. A questionnaire was sent to 559 subjects. The response rate was 92%. Twenty-nine incompletely filled forms were rejected. Thus, the questionnaires from 487 subjects, representing 87% of the original number, constitute the basis for the study.
Measurements: The questionnaire inquired about the following symptoms: heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, dysphagia, dyspepsia, respiratory symptoms, vomiting, and belching.
Results: The age-adjusted prevalence of daily symptoms suggestive of gastroesophageal reflux disease was 8% in men and 15% in women (P < 0.05). Fifty-four percent of men and 66% of women reported that they had symptoms at least once a month (P < 0.05). The prevalence of symptoms was roughly the same across age groups. The occurrence of chest pain, dyspepsia, vomiting, belching, dysphagia, chronic cough, hoarseness, and wheezing were associated with symptoms suggestive of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Conclusions: Symptoms suggestive of gastroesophageal reflux disease are common in elderly subjects. Women suffer from these symptoms more frequently than men. Typical reflux symptoms are often associated with atypical complaints, such as abdominal symptoms, chest pain, or respiratory symptoms.