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GERD Treatments & Medications

If you have been dealing with the symptoms of GERD and heartburn, then treatment usually starts with over-the-counter medications that can control acid production. However, some people are not able to find relief from their GERD symptoms by using these medications, so other treatments may be required.

Initial Treatments For GERD

These are a list of over-the-counter medications which are used to treat cases of GERD:

  • Antacids: These work to neutralize the stomach acids that are working to cause such discomfort. Antacids are available in a variety of forms including Mylanta, Maalox, Rolaids, and Tums. While these can provide relief of symptoms, antacids aren’t a good long-term solution, especially if the esophagus becomes inflamed. Antacids can also cause some diarrhea or constipation when used too often.
  • H-2 Receptor Blockers: This type of medication takes a little longer to take effect, but can provide an extended period of relief from GERD symptoms. H-2 receptor blockers are marketed as Pepcid AC, Tagamet HB, Axid AR, and Zantac 75. If your condition is more severe, there are stronger H-2 receptor blockers that are available with a prescription.

Medications Available with Prescription

If these prior treatments are unable to provide relief for your heartburn, then your doctor may decide to prescribe a stronger form of medication, including:

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors: While these medications have been associated with certain adverse side effects (bone loss or higher risk of fractures), prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors have been used to treat more severe cases of GERD. If you do start on this treatment, then your doctor may also start you on a calcium supplement to counteract any potential side effects. Also be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking any blood-thinning medications, as these can react negatively with the proton pump inhibitors.
  • Prokinetic Agents: These medications are used to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve connecting the stomach and the esophagus). This medication can also allow for stomach to be emptied more quickly. However the side effects of prokinetic agents can include depression, fatigue, anxiety, and other neurological issues. These medications are not advised unless prior treatment has not been successful.

Surgical Procedures for GERD

Finally, we come to the surgical side of this GERD treatment coin. While most cases of GERD can be controlled with the help of the treatments listed above, there are certain situations where a person’s heartburn can’t be reigned in using the more conventional methods. In order to prevent long-term damage to the esophagus that could lead to more life-threatening complications (such as Barrett’s Esophagus and esophageal cancer), surgery may be needed. Most surgical operations used for GERD involve the strengthening of the esophageal sphincter valve.

Heartburn and other indications of GERD should not be ignored, as these could lead to a number of other problems in the long-run. Speak to your doctor about what actions should be taken in order to treat your GERD. In some situations, this may involve a combination of lifestyle adjustments and medication.