Chronic heartburn and acid reflux, which occurs more than twice a week, is a symptom of GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). The Mayo Clinic reports most people are able to cope with the burning and discomfort common in GERD by using over-the-counter remedies and making lifestyle changes. Others require prescription medications and medical interventions to ease the symptoms.
Before you reach for medications to remedy your heartburn, experiment with lifestyle changes that may relieve burning sensations and increase your overall health. Maintaining a healthy weight may decrease heartburn by reducing pressure on the abdomen. You may also experience relief by refraining from certain foods and smoking cigarettes. Medline Plus adds reducing stress and eating smaller meals may help. Talk to your doctor about diet modifications and other changes.
Over-the-counter medications are often the first avenue of relief for those with heartburn. Common medications found on your pharmacy shelves include antacids (such as Maalox, Tums and Rolaids), which work by neutralizing stomach acid, H-2 receptor blockers (such as Pepcid AC and Zantac 75), which work more slowly than antacids but provide longer lasting relief, and proton pump inhibitors (such as Prilosec OTC and Prevacid 24 HR), which hinder acid production. Both H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors are available in prescription strength formulas for more severe heartburn conditions. If you do not find relief within a few weeks of using over-the-counter remedies, the Mayo Clinic recommends talking to your doctor about other options.
Prescription medications are needed when over-the-counter methods fail. Prescription options include H-2 receptor blockers (such as Pepcid and Tagamet) and prescription strength proton pump inhibitors (such as Prilosex RX and Nexium) as well as prokinetic agents. Prokinetic agents work by speeding stomach emptying and helping tighten the valve between the stomach and esophagus. However, these medications may cause unwanted effects, such as anxiety, depression and fatigue, which may deter some users, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If both over-the-counter and prescription remedies for heartburn fail, a surgical procedure may be the next step. Several procedure options exist. The Mayo Clinic describes surgeries to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter and a procedure that requires electrode energy to heat esophageal tissue, which causes the tissue to scar and damage the nerves that react to stomach acid. Surgical procedures are invasive and generally, a last resort option, however.
About this Author
Rica Lewis was a health care professional for more than 10 years. She obtained several certifications in the health care field and now combines her passion for writing and her expertise in health care to produce pertinent pieces on health and wellness. Her work has appeared in “Metroparent Magazine” and “Anew Heart Healthcare Magazine.” Lewis earned a diploma from LongRidge Writers Institute.