If you have been using nonprescription medicines to treat your symptoms for longer than 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the stomach acid could be causing damage to your esophagus. Your doctor can help you find the right treatment. Making lifestyle changes is still an important part of the treatment of GERD when you are using medicine.
Antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors-either prescription or nonprescription-are usually tried first. Medicines can:
- Relieve symptoms (heartburn, sour taste, or pain).
- Allow the esophagus to heal.
- Prevent complications of GERD.
- Antacids, such as Mylanta and Tums. Antacids neutralize stomach acid and relieve heartburn. If you want to take medicine only when your symptoms bother you, antacids are a good choice.
Acid reducers. These include:
- H2 blockers, such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and famotidine (Pepcid). H2 blockers reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. Most are available in both nonprescription and prescription strength. If nonprescription H2 blockers don't relieve your symptoms, talk to your doctor about trying prescription-strength medicine.
- Proton pump inhibitors, such as lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec). Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. Some are available without a prescription.
Medicine may not prevent all of your GERD symptoms all the time. Even if you're taking an acid reducer every day, you may still have heartburn from time to time. It's okay to take antacids when you have heartburn like this. But if you feel like your daily medicine isn't working to control your GERD symptoms, talk with your doctor. You may need to try a different medicine.
Be sure to keep taking medicines as instructed by your doctor, because stopping treatment will often bring symptoms back.
What to think about
- Doctors usually try to choose a treatment that uses enough medicine to control your symptoms but not so much that side effects become a serious problem.
- Besides medicines, surgery is the only other effective option to prevent GERD symptoms from coming back.