In order for doctors to determine if a patient’s heartburn is a symptom of GERD, there are certain procedures they can recommend, key among them being:
- Endoscopy-this is a procedure that is used to check for abnormalities in the food pipe by analyzing tissue samples.
- Esophageal motility testing-this is a test used to measure the pressure as well as movement in the esophagus.
- X-ray-this is done in order to get a clear picture of the stomach and esophagus condition.
- Ambulatory acid probe tests-this is a procedure where an acid monitor is placed in the esophagus in order to check when the stomach acid backs into the esophagus and for how long this happens.
After diagnosis, the doctor may recommend treatment using heartburn medicine.
With so many medications on the market, it is very difficult to tell them apart and to know which one suits you best. Here is a quick guide.
Proton pump inhibitors
These medications are sold in the form of Prevacid, Prilosec, Aciphex, Dexilant, Nexium, Protonix, Zegerid as well as other forms of generic versions. These drugs help in healing damaged tissues in the esophagus as well as helping in inhibiting acid production.
Doctors normally recommend these drugs in cases where the symptoms are severe. There are some side effects associated with these drugs such as constipation, dizziness, diarrhea, and headache.
Majority of these drugs are acquired by prescription though some like Prilosec and Prevacid can be bought over-the-counter.
These are drugs that provide fast relief for acid reflux by neutralizing the stomach acids. Presence of magnesium, calcium, and aluminum in bicarbonate forms counteract the acids in the stomach. The side effects of antacids only last so long as they are in the system hence this form of medication can only be used for immediate relief like after a heavy meal.
Popular over-the-counter antacids include Rolaids, Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, and Pepcid. Potential side effects of these drugs include diarrhea, nausea, and constipation.
Histamine-2 (H2) receptor blockers
H2 receptor blockers can be acquired over-the-counter as Pepcid AC and Zantac 75 or on doctor’s prescription such as Tagamet HB. This medication works by inhibiting acid production in the stomach. The side effects associated with these drugs include dizziness, headache, constipation, and diarrhea.
When used over long periods, they can cause physical problems in men as well as breast enlargement in women.
These drugs work by forming a foam layer on top of the contents of the stomach, keeping them in the stomach. They can be acquired over the counter. An example of such a drug is Gaviscon. Potential side effects include diarrhea and nausea.
These are drugs that aide the stomach in emptying faster. They also enhance the strength of the lower esophageal sphincter keeping the stomach acids away from the esophagus. They include metoclopramide and Urecholine.
However, the drugs have numerous side effects associated with them such as depression, drowsiness, and anxiety.
If left untreated, heartburn may lead to severe complications. It is therefore up to the patients to consult a doctor if they suspect severe occurrences such as weight loss, difficulty in swallowing as well as anemia. It is also advisable for the patient to do some research on the available heartburn medicine and see if they suit your body as some side effects may be severe depending on the patient’s body.