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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

Frequently Asked Questions About Heartburn and Reflux

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1. When should I take an antacid vs. a Famotidine(Pepcid-AC) or Omeprazole (Prilosec)-like product? continued...

Your doctor may want you to take antacids when you start taking H2 blockers to help control your symptoms until the H2 blocker takes effect. If your doctor prescribes an antacid, take it an hour before or an hour after H2 blockers. Take H2 blockers regularly for as long as directed by your doctor, even if you do not have any pain or your symptoms improve.

Possible serious side effects that need to be reported to your doctor right away include confusion, chest tightness, bleeding, sore throat, fever, irregular heartbeat, weakness, and unusual fatigue. Other less serious side effects include mild headache, dizziness, and diarrhea, which are usually temporary and will likely go away on their own.

2. It seems that my husband has heartburn every night. I think he should see a doctor. He thinks he should just continue taking antacids. Who's right?

Occasional heartburn is common and generally not serious. However, prolonged heartburn can be a symptom of a serious problem, such as esophagitis. Esophagitis is an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus, the food tube. Esophagitis occurs when stomach acid repeatedly comes into contact with the lining of the esophagus. If esophagitis is severe, the person can develop Barrett's esophagus and even cancer. Over time, this condition can narrow the passageway from the esophagus to the stomach. Your husband should consult his doctor for further evaluation. When a person requires more than twice-weekly over-the-counter drugs for heartburn, a doctor should be consulted. An endoscopy to visualize his esophagus may also be recommended.

3. I am a 55-year-old male who is about 30 pounds overweight. Lately, I've been experiencing frequent heartburn and have an acid taste in the back of my throat. Now, my doctor is telling me I have a hiatal hernia. Is this a serious problem? Will it require surgery?

A hernia is the pressing of an organ through an opening in the muscle wall of the cavity that protects it. With a hiatal hernia, a portion of the stomach pushes through the hole where the esophagus and the stomach join.

The most common cause of a hiatal hernia is an increase in pressure on the abdominal cavity. Pressure can come from coughing, vomiting, straining during a bowel movement, heavy lifting, or physical strain. Pregnancy, obesity, or excess fluid in the abdomen also can cause hiatal hernias.

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