Skip to content

    Heartburn/GERD Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Americans Waking Up to Nighttime Heartburn

    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Annie Finnegan

    Aug. 24, 2000 (Washington) -- For many Americans, heartburn is more than an unpleasant sensation in the chest -- it's literally a nightmare. According to a new poll, nearly eight out of 10 heartburn sufferers have painful symptoms at night that keep most from falling asleep, or prompting them to wake up in the middle of the night. And 40% of the respondents say the problem slows them down the next day.

    The numbers come from a survey done in the spring of this year by the Gallup Organization. It's being billed as the most comprehensive look ever at nighttime heartburn. The poll was commissioned by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) and paid for by a grant from Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a maker of heartburn drugs.

    To compile the results, pollsters found 1,000 people around the country who experienced heartburn at least once a week and asked them questions over the phone.

    The net result is that researchers now believe nearly 50 million Americans suffer at least one episode of nighttime heartburn per week. Physicians worry that, beyond discomfort, this could lead to more serious problems that range from diminished performance on the job, to automobile accidents, and even a higher risk of cancer of the esophagus.

    Heartburn, a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is the burning feeling when some stomach contents back up, or reflux, into the esophagus -- the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. At night, GERD is more troublesome because damaging stomach acids tend to creep out of the stomach while people are lying down.

    "Cancer of the esophagus can be and is related to heartburn and more likely in people who have nighttime heartburn than in those who have daytime heartburn," said Donald Castell, MD, former president of the AGA at a news conference here Thursday.

    It's estimated that there are about 6,000 cases of esophageal cancer each year in the U.S., and one recent study estimated that nighttime GERD sufferers are 11 times more likely to get the disease than those without the digestive problem.

    Today on WebMD

    Woman eating pizza
    How it starts, and how to stop it.
    man with indigestion
    Get lifestyle and diet tips.
     
    woman shopping for heartburn relief
    Medication options.
    man with heartburn
    Symptoms of both.
     
    digestive health
    Slideshow
    Heartburn or Heart Attack
    Article
     
    heartburn
    Article
    stomach acid rising
    Article
     
    Woman eating pizza
    Slideshow
    digestive myths
    Slideshow
     
    Extreme Eats
    Slideshow
    Bowl of pasta and peppers
    Slideshow