The Secrets of Managing GERD and Heartburn
Is it time to get serious about your GERD?
GERD Treatments: Medications
Medications -- both prescription and over-the-counter -- are the most common
treatment for GERD and heartburn relief. Here’s a rundown of your options.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). If you have GERD, the odds are you’ll
be prescribed one of these. This class of drugs -- which includes Aciphex,
Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, and Protonix -- is now the standard GERD treatment.
Not only do they help block the production of acid in the stomach, they also
protect the esophagus from damage and allow it to heal.
“The proton pump inhibitors are a terrific
class of medications,” says Rao. “They’re very effective, and they appear to be
quite safe.” They’re even helpful in diagnosing GERD, Rao says. If they work,
you probably have GERD. If they don’t, you probably have something else.
Like any medication, they can have side
effects. There’s some concern that they may cause a small increase in the
occurrence of weakened bones in older people. While the benefits of
well-controlled GERD generally outweigh this risk, you should discuss it with
H2 blockers. These come as prescription and OTC medicines. They
include drugs like Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac and were once the standard
treatment for GERD. But they’re not used as often now. “They’re perfectly good
medicines,” says J. Patrick Waring, MD, a gastroenterologist at Digestive
Healthcare of Georgia in Atlanta and a board member at the International
Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD.) “But H2 blockers
just aren’t as powerful as the proton pump inhibitors.”
Some doctors still recommend them as GERD
treatment, at least for mild cases. They’re also sometimes added to PPIs to
help treat occasional breakthrough symptoms. Cheskin tells WebMD that H2
blockers may have one significant advantage. Because most are generic, they can
be less expensive than PPIs.
Antacids. The old standbys from your grandparents’ medicine cabinet
-- tablets like Tums and Rolaids and liquids like Maalox and Mylanta -- can
still play a role in controlling GERD. These heartburn remedies aren’t suited
for regular, long-term use. But their main advantage is that they work quickly,
unlike more powerful GERD medications.