- author, Aurelia Foster
- scroll, BBC News
Researchers say people who can't burp suffer from embarrassment, anxiety, and depression because of the condition, in addition to physical pain.
Retrograde cricopharyngeal dysfunction (RCD-R) causes abdominal swelling, “socially awkward” sounds from the chest and neck, and abdominal distension.
The research was conducted by a group of academics from a Texas university.
They said many doctors are “unaware” of the disorder, leaving patients “underserved.”
They added that more research and awareness about the DCF-R is needed.
The group called for an investigation into “the extent of the seriousness of this impairment in the patient’s daily life, including its mental and social effects,” because it could negatively affect patients’ quality of life.
FCD-R, also known as “no-burp syndrome,” occurs when the cricopharyngeal muscle in the throat is unable to relax to allow gas to rise.
This condition has “plagued people for a long time,” explains Yakubu Karagama, an ear, nose and throat doctor at Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital in London, England.
“When you eat or drink something, you feel this pain. Some patients have to lie down until the gas comes out, and some people have to put their finger in their mouth to force themselves to vomit, and the gas comes out with it.”
Karagama tells the BBC that he has been treating people with this condition using Botox injections, which relax the cricopharyngeal muscle, since 2016.
He said the treatment was “life-changing” for “almost every patient” he operated on.
However, the treatment is currently only available in the UK, due to a lack of awareness of the disorder among healthcare professionals, Karagama says.
“Most people laugh when you say, ‘I can’t burp.’ That’s the problem.”
The expert adds: “People do not understand the physiology of burping.”
According to Karagama, it is not known how many people suffer from this disorder, but he believes it is common.
“Many people don't even know that the symptoms they are experiencing are a result of this condition. Most patients who come to my clinic say they have had it their whole lives.”
He calls for increased funding for clinical research into this dysfunction, which he believes patients face “unnecessarily”.
An NHS spokesperson says: “Although the clinical evidence for this condition is very limited due to the small number of people who have it, NHS staff adopt clinical advice from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which sets out appropriate care and Services for patients with specific conditions or needs.”
The study, which was based on a survey of 199 people unable to burp, concluded that there was “very limited knowledge” about the condition among healthcare professionals, and that better understanding could increase rates of diagnosis and treatment.
The researchers said this would lead to a better quality of life for patients.
The researchers found that half of people with CF-R in the UK discussed their symptoms with their doctors, but 90% of them said they did not receive adequate help.
The study notes the “general prevalence of psychiatric symptoms” in people with difficult-to-diagnose disorders.
“Therefore, it is important to understand the mental health implications of this condition,” the researchers said.
This disorder did not get the official name DCF-R until 2019, when American physician Robert W. Bastian, from Chicago, identified the cricopharyngeal muscle as the root of the problem.
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