Background Little is known about the distinctive characteristics of subjects with frequent (at least weekly) and occasional gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms.
Aim To compare the characteristics and disease management of subjects complaining of at least weekly and less frequent gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms.
Methods Population-based postal survey carried out in France in 2003 among a representative sample of 8000 subjects.
Results The prevalence of frequent and occasional gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms was 7.8% and 23.4%, respectively. Compared to subjects with occasional gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms, those with frequent symptoms were older, suffered from more severe symptoms and felt greater impact on daily living, despite a slightly shorter duration of symptoms. These subjects more often sought medical advice. Most of them had treated the last episode of symptoms primarily with a proton-pump inhibitor and less often with antacids/alginates. The degree of treatment satisfaction was lower in subjects with frequent gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms, in relation to a more frequently observed persistence of symptoms irrespective of the medication used except for proton-pump inhibitors.
Conclusions This survey suggests that subjects complaining of frequent or occasional gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms constitute two distinctive groups. Despite greater healthcare use, the former group shows a lower level of satisfaction with disease management. Nevertheless, a substantial subset of subjects with occasional symptoms also complained of impaired health-related quality of life and sought health care.