Epidemiology and Social Impact of Gastrointestinal Disease

Although diseases of other organ systems (e.g., cardiovascular disease) may appear to be more dramatic illnesses with higher rates of morbidity and mortality, the overall impact of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders is often underestimated from both a biopsychosocial and a resource standpoint. Typically, diseases of the GI tract are misdiagnosed, mistreated, misunderstood, or missed altogether, ultimately leading to substantial psychological morbidity and tremendous direct and indirect expense. Digestive diseases cost an estimated $91 billion annually in U.S. health care costs, lost days from work, and premature deaths. More than 70 million Americans are diagnosed each year with disorders of the digestive tract, including gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease, inflammatory bowel disease, GI cancers, motility disorders, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and food-borne illness (Foundation, 2009).

This chapter serves as an overview of common GI diseases and disorders encountered in family medicine practices, encompassing both adult and pediatric populations. The most recent evidence-based diagnostic and therapeutic guidelines and reviews are highlighted, and radiographs, endoscopy photos, and video segments are integrated where applicable.

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