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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Aug;13(8):1029-33.

Patterns of consultation and treatment for heartburn: findings from a Singaporean community survey.

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Department of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore.



The prevalence of reflux-type symptoms among community individuals in Singapore is low.


To describe the healthcare-seeking behaviour of those subjects with heartburn.


A cross-sectional survey, using a reliable and valid questionnaire, was carried out on a race-stratified random sample of residents, aged 21-95 years, in a Singaporean town; 93% responded (n = 696).


The ethnic-adjusted prevalence of heartburn for the past 1-year was 4.6%. Sixteen (30%) of the 53 heartburn sufferers had sought consultation for their symptoms. They were more likely to have severe heartburn (P<0.001), and to have complained of nocturnal awakening due to heartburn (P<0.05) than those who did not present to medical attention. Ethnic origin did not influence the consultation pattern. Only 18 (34%) of the 53 heartburn sufferers received pharmacological therapy for their symptoms. The most commonly used medication was antacid. Medication use was associated with symptom severity (P<0.05), but not ethnicity.


Heartburn is uncommon in the general population of Singapore. Few heartburn sufferers seek medical attention, and most do not receive medications for symptomatic control. The decision to seek medical advice and/or to medicate was generally linked to symptom severity, but not to ethnicity.

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