KOCHI: Have you been experiencing acidity problems since long, but are yet to see a doctor? If yes, quit ‘self-treatment’ immediately and seek professional advice before it causes irreversible damage to your health. Gastroenterologists say a majority of Keralites who face acidity issues wait three to four months before seeking medical aid. Though it’s difficult to cure acidity-related problems, they can be controlled effectively through proper medication and lifestyle, say doctors. Like many other diseases, consumption of oily and spicy food items, caffeine, alcohol and chocolates and lack of physical activities are the main causes of digestive disorders.
Of late, the state has been witnessing a steep increase in the number of patients with acidity problems, mainly owing to changing food habits and lifestyle. Subsequently, the sale of medicines has also increased manifold. The top 10 pharma companies operating in the segment account for 60 per cent of the prescriptions generated for acidity treatment.
“Around 30-35 per cent of patients in Kerala seeking treatment for various digestive disorders complain of heartburn. Yet, they experiment with self-medication and other remedies, including change in diet and consumption of over-the-counter medicines, for around three to four months before seeking appropriate medical help, says Dr Sunil Mathai, consultant gastroenterologist, Medical Trust Hospital, Kochi. Though acidity affects all age groups, it’s high among youngsters, with 38 per cent people in the 20-30 age group experiencing digestive disorders. “Usually, one’s lifestyle becomes erratic between 20 and 30 years of age due to various reasons, including peer group exposure, misinformation about health and addiction to smoking or drugs. Prolonged fasting, using of painkillers, anxiety and depression also lead to acidity issues,” said Dr Mathai.
“ Around 67 per cent of the patients in Kerala experience heartburn during day and the rest suffer from symptoms during night. In either case, lifestyle and sleeping patterns get affected,” says Dr Philip Augustine, CEO and chairman of medical services at PVS Memorial Hospital.
Despite the obvious discomfort that acidity causes, around 15 per cent of the patients in Kerala tend to be non-complaint with the prescribed medication and opt for easier over-the-counter medicines, which give them short-term relief. According to Dr G N Ramesh, senior associate consultant, medical gastroenterology, Aster Medcity, acute acidity causes ulcer, which can even lead to cancer. “This does not mean that all kinds of ulcer cause cancer. But some ulcers develop as cancer in the later stages. Besides, the conventional reasons such as skipping food and diet at the right time and consumption of junk food, stomach infection caused by helicobacter pylori - a kind of bacteria that enter the body through food and water - also causes acidity, says Dr Ramesh.