Gastrointestinal diseases in the elderly

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Purpose of reviewThe subject of gastrointestinal disorders in the elderly is timely and important because of the demographic reality that soon over 20% of our population will be older than 65 years of age, utilizing perhaps 50% of our total healthcare costs. The purpose of this review is to draw attention to some areas of clinical information that point in the direction of better clinical care for the elderly. Medicine is finally advancing from the era when most symptoms in older patients were ascribed to the aging process itself. Indeed, within gastroenterology there are few changes that occur inevitably as part of aging.Recent findingsProgress has been made in several areas of gastrointestinal pathophysiology. These include: the pathophysiology of swallowing and evacuation disorders and the beginning of the application of techniques derived from physiological studies to improve function; recognizing the importance of reflux esophagitis and its complications and improving treatment; understanding the importance of disorders of malabsorption and their impact upon nutrition in the elderly; major issues in the diagnosis and management of inflammatory bowel disease in this age group; and approaches to the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.SummaryAs we pay more attention to these areas and encourage clinical research we expect to improve the treatment of older patients with these diseases and to reduce the burden of morbidity in this population.

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