Leading experts from the fields of gastroenterology, general medicine and pharmacy from across the Middle East met in Dubai over the weekend to obtain input on the unmet needs in the treatment of diarrhea and to gain an understanding of the prevalence of digestive health issues in the UAE and across the region. New UAE survey results based on a survey of 1000 respondents, which were discussed at the meeting, have revealed that nearly one in four UAE residents say their overall digestive health “could be improved”. Common digestive health issues include diarrhea, constipation and heartburn. Twenty three percent of the 1000 people surveyed who have suffered from either acute or chronic diarrhea did not treat the condition, even though the condition can interrupt daily activities such as causing respondents to miss school, work and family or social gatherings. The survey was commissioned by Johnson & Johnson.
Chronic diarrhea is a prolonged condition, lasting more than four weeks. Acute diarrhea—characterised by abnormally frequent and loose bowel movements—generally has a sudden onset and while the episodes are brief, the symptoms include cramps, anxiety, nausea, bloating and headache, and can be both distressing and incapacitating. While acute diarrhea is more commonly seen among travellers, or as a result of bacteria in food or poor hygiene, chronic diarrhea can be caused by stress, hormones, medication and even dietary intolerances.
Dr. Fatma Al-Attar, a Consultant Family Physician and Head of the Preventive Services Center, Dubai Health Authority, who served as Chair of the advisory council said: “There are many myths in the region associated with the treatment of digestive conditions such as diarrhea. For example, some patients believe they shouldn’t treat diarrhea because their condition isn’t “severe enough,” or that diarrhea is a defence mechanism to flush out toxins and pathogens from the body. These are barriers we face as medical professionals in ensuring patients receive the recommended medical care to treat digestive health issues such as diarrhea effectively, whether the condition is acute or chronic.”
Of the 1000 respondents in the UAE survey who have suffered from diarrhea, 23% admit they did not treat their condition. Forty five percent who didn’t seek treatment believed it’s best for diarrhea to run its course and 28 percent weren’t sure how to treat it.
Interestingly, 21% of the 1000 people surveyed who have suffered from either chronic or acute diarrhea have treated their condition with natural remedies, for example by using an absorbent such as charcoal, rather than with Loperamide-based medication or antibiotics. While these natural agents were included in traditional anti-diarrheal mixtures, research shows these natural absorbents provide little, if any, benefit to adults suffering from diarrhea.
Dr Al-Attar continued: “As digestive health is the cornerstone of overall wellness, it’s important to seek help if you are experiencing on-going or irregular digestive issues or think your digestive health could be improved. UAE residents should consult their healthcare providers to ensure their digestive health remains balanced throughout the year.”
The medical advisory council, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, featured a full day of interactive sessions, roundtable discussions and workshops where expert attendees discussed clinical updates as well as their perception and understanding of various diarrhea treatment options. A report on the findings of the advisory council is expected to be published following the meeting.
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