Understanding Heartburn: Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Heartburn?

Your health care provider may suggest antacids for occasional heartburn. Sometimes, more potent medications such as H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors may be needed, especially for persistent symptoms. Both prescription and over-the-counter choices are available. Rarely, surgery is recommended to prevent reflux and heartburn. The primary objective of treatment is to identify the cause of the heartburn so it can be avoided in the future.

Over-the-counter antacids are commonly used to neutralize stomach acid. If antacids don't quell the symptoms, your health care provider may recommend an over-the-counter medication called an H2 blocker such as cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), nizatidine (Axid AR), and ranitidine (Zantac). Stronger, prescription-strength antacids are also available.

If heartburn symptoms persist, your health care provider can turn to drugs called proton pump inhibitors to reduce the stomach's production of acid. These include dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), pantoprazole (Protonix), or rabeprazole (Aciphex). Some of these are available over-the-counter. Drugs that make the stomach empty faster may also be prescribed, such as metoclopramide (Metozolv, Reglan)

When all else fails, surgery may be required to repair the lower esophageal sphincter. This surgery can now be done using a minimally invasive laparoscope and usually requires only a short hospital stay.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on April 30, 2017

Sources

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Talley, N. and Vakil, N. American Journal of Gastroenterology, October 2005.

Feldman, M. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 9th ed., Saunders, 2010.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States."

Gabbe, S. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies, 5th ed., Churchill Livingstone, 2007.

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