Whether you call it heartburn, acid reflux or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), the fact is that nearly 25 million Americans suffer from this problem everyday. The uncomfortable burning sensation usually hits you soon after you eat. You may also feel an acid taste in your throat when you go to bed. Other people, however, have these problems only occasionally when they eat spicy foods or a big meal or go to bed too soon after dinner.
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Acid reflux occurs when acid from your stomach comes back up into the esophagus and irritates its sensitive lining. If the problem of heartburn persists in someone at least twice a week even after a change in lifestyle and diet according to a doctor’s recommendation, it is likely that you have GERD. This condition occurs when the seal that keeps acid inside the stomach does not close properly, and lets acid to back up into the esophagus. This is called reflux. It should never be left untreated as it can lead to serious problems, including cancer in the future. You should also never treat a child with over-the-counter heartburn medication without first consulting a doctor.
There are a number of medications available over the counter to treat heartburn symptoms. According to surveys, about 60% to 70% of people with heartburn get relief from these over-the-counter medicines. If these medications fail, it is wise to consult your doctor about other available treatment options. The doctor then is likely to evaluate you for GERD. Over the counter medications used to treat heartburn and other mild GERD symptoms include antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
To relieve heartburn,the best gastroenterologist in Port St. Lucie will prescribe antacids to neutralize stomach acid. They also treat sour stomach, acid indigestion, stomach upset and sometimes ulcer pain also. Some of the antacids also contain simethicone, which helps reduce excess gas. Among the over the counter antacids available are Alka-Seltzer, Tums, Alka-2, Titralac, Surpass Gum, Milk of Magnesia, Amphojel, Alternagel, Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Gelusil, Gaviscon and Pepto-Bismol. It is advisable to follow package directions and chew the tablets well before swallowing for the quickest relief. An overdose of antacids may lead to constipation, diarrhea, changes in the color of bowel movements and stomach cramps.
Histamine 2 receptor antagonists or H2 blockers include Famotidine (Pepcid-AC), cimetidine (Tagamet HB), nizatidine (Axid AR) and ranitidine (Zantac 75). While Famotidine is also available as a generic, Pepcid AC was made available without a prescription in 2003. However, if you need stronger formulations of other H2 blockers, you will need a prescription. H2 blockers cut acid production by blocking signals that instruct the stomach to form acid.
However, one should not take an H2 blocker for over two weeks at the maximum dose without consulting a doctor. While using them, you should follow manufacturer’s instructions or consult your physician. It is better to take the medicine 30 minutes to an hour before a meal that you suspect of causing you acid reflux. Never exceed more than two doses in a twenty-four hour period. For faster and prolonged relief, H2 blockers can also be used in combination with antacids. H2 blockers cannot give you immediate relief, as they have to first enter the bloodstream before starting work.
Examples of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are Omeprazole (Prilosec and a generic version), lansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (AcipHex), pantoprazole (Protonix), and esomeprazole (Nexium). These are sold with a prescription. The 20-mg strength of omeprazole (Prilosec) was made available over-the-counter in September 2003. The purpose of the PPIs is to block the action of cells that pump acid into the stomach for 10 to 24 hours. These drugs can eliminate symptoms in most cases, even for people with ulcers in the esophagus.
They are useful for the treatment of esophagitis also. Over-the-counter Prilosec is used to stop frequent heartburn, sufferers experience symptoms two or more days each week. For more serious cases of GERD, prescription-strength PPIs should be used. When using Prilosec, you should follow package and perhaps a physician’s directions. Do not chew, crush or split the pills and take the medicine 30 to 60 minutes before a meal. If your problem persists in spite of using Prilosec for 14 days, you should consult a doctor. Keep it in mind that PPIs may interact with other drugs.
As some over-the-counter drugs may cause side effects or interact in a harmful way with other drugs you are taking, it is better to consult your pharmacist before trying any nonprescription drug. Once the pharmacist is told of all the drugs you are using, as well as any conditions or allergies you have, they can tell you if a particular medicine is suitable for you or not.