Millions of Americans are coping with gastrointestinal reflux disease by taking medication that helps alleviate the symptoms of this potentially debilhitating illness. There's a wide variety of medications that can help with GERD symptoms, and finding the one that's right for you will help you overcome the extreme discomfort GERD symptoms can cause and help you get on with living an enjoyable and productive life.
Gastrointestinal reflux disease is caused by a weakness or malfunction of the esophageal sphincter. This weakness or malfunction causes stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus, irritating its lining. This irritation can cause many uncomfortable symptoms such as heartburn, the most common symptom, nausea, regurgitation, vomiting and trouble swallowing or breathing.
There are a variety of treatments for GERD, including surgical options. The surgical options used to treat GERD involve finding a way to either strengthen or repair the lower esophageal sphincter. These solutions can involve wrapping part of the stomach around the esophagus or using radio waves to stimulate the muscles of the esophagus to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter.
Not everyone is willing or able to undergo surgery to correct GERD, however, but luckily for these folks, there are several other treatments available to help alleviate the symptoms of GERD, including medication.
The vast majority of medications prescribed for GERD seek to alleviate symptoms by lessening the primary problem caused by GERD, the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. The presence of large amounts of stomach acid in the esophagus can produce heartburn, problems sleeping, nausea, trouble eating and a precancerous condition known as Barrett's esophagus. By reducing the amount of acid that gets refluxed into the stomach, you can alleviate the negative impact of gastrointestinal reflux disease. While this is by no means a cure for GERD, it does eliminate the more potentially health-threatening aspects of GERD and alleviates the very painful and uncomfortable symptoms of GERD.
Antacids are perhaps the gentlest and most common medication used for GERD. Antacids are available in liquid and chewable tablet form. These medications are generally available without a prescription and work to neutralize the acid of the stomach. Most antacids contain aluminum and folks who have bad reactions to aluminum should avoid these medications. Prolonged use of antacids can cause constipation and diarrhea, and a magnesium build-up that can damage the kidneys. If you're taking antacids, you may want to avoid high protein meals because they can interfere with the effectiveness of the antacids.
H2 blockers are another medication used to treat GERD. Some of these drugs can be purchased without a prescription, but the stronger versions require a doctor's order. These drugs work to decrease the stomach's production of acid. They come in capsule, liquid and tablet form. Folks taking these drugs should consult with their doctor to ensure that their H2 blockers won't interact negatively with any other medication they may be taken. Some possible side effects of this medication include confusion and depression and other side effects such as breast enlargement or some adverse sexual dysfunctions among men.
Proton pump inhibitors are another form of medication to treat GERD. These medications are stronger than H2 blockers in preventing acid production. Folks prescribed proton pump inhibitors take them once per day in a liquid or capsule form. If you're taking proton pump inhibitors, you may experience some side effects such as gas, stomach pain or diarrhea. Some common brands of proton pump inhibitors include Prilosec, Prevacid and Aciphex. A recent entry into the market is esomeprazole, which is faster acting than older proton pump inhibitors.
Coating drugs are another anti-GERD medication. These drugs are used to coat the lining of the esophagus and protect it from the harshness of the stomach acid that may be refluxed into the esophagus by GERD. Sucralfate, the most commonly prescribed coating drug, is taken five times per day. Folks who have had kidney problems may not want to take this drug because it contains aluminum. Side effects tend to be mild, the most commonly reported one is constipation.
Promotility drugs are one of the few medication treatments for GERD that impact the lower esophageal sphincter. These drugs treat GERD by bolstering the lower esophageal sphincter's muscle tone and getting the stomach to empty its contents more quickly. There are a variety of drugs that promotility drugs should not be taken with, so it's important to make sure that you inform your doctor of every medication you're currently on before he prescribes you a promotility drug. These drugs are commonly taken about half an hour before meals and at bed time. Some common side effects include constipation, drowsiness and possibly irregular heartbeat.
As with any medication you should use your GERD medications as directed. Also, before being prescribed any drug you should let your doctor know about any current medications or therapies you are receiving