Heartburn (Acid Reflux) | Causes, Complications & Treatment Options

How can your doctor manage heartburn?

As we said, heartburn is common and usually occasional. Occasional heartburn is easy to control with OTC medications and healthy lifestyle modifications. But, more frequent and severe heartburn -which may be due to GERD- requires the prescription of more potent medicines and even may require surgery. Also, complications of long-term and frequent heartburn may require surgical intervention.

● OTC medications for heartburn include:

Antacids (like Gaviscon, Maalox, Rolaids, and Tum):

Antacids neutralize the stomach acid and provide quick relief for heartburn. They also help in relieving indigestion, stomach upset, and gases. They can’t heal ulcers or damage that the stomach acid caused. You can take them after eating, at bedtime, or on need.

Some antacids may lead to diarrhea, constipation, or stomach cramps. Avoid overdose and overuse of antacids because it may lead to serious side effects. Contact your doctor if there is no improvement with prolonged use or if there are side effects.

H2 receptors blockers (or acid blockers), such as Tagamet:

These medications act by reducing stomach acid production. They don’t provide quick relief as antacids but provide more prolonged relief. Take these medicines regularly as your healthcare provider recommends, even if your symptoms get better.

Acid blockers may cause headaches, dizziness, or diarrhea. Contact your doctor if you feel serious side effects, like confusion, fatigue, sore throat, chest tightness, or irregular heartbeats.

● Prescription medications for heartburn:

If the OTC medications failed to relieve your heartburn, your doctor might prescribe other medicines, such as:

Prescription-stronger acid blockers (like Zantac and Pepcid):

They block acid production and treat heartburn, esophagitis, GERD, and peptic ulcers. Follow your doctor’s prescription.

Proton pump inhibitors (like Nexium and Prilosec):

They also block the production of stomach acid but with a more potent effect.

Your doctor will choose the best drug for you, depending on your condition, and tell you how and when to take them. Your doctor may prescribe antacid with other medications to provide quick relief until their effect starts.

Surgery may be an option when you have GERD, stricture, Barret’s esophagus, severe or atypical symptoms, or when intensive medical therapy can’t control your condition.