If you have heartburn or acid reflux often, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. To know for sure, you’ll need to see your doctor.
Don’t try to diagnose yourself with GERD or treat it on your own. Common symptoms like chest pain could be caused by a more serious health issue.
Your doctor will start with a physical exam. She’ll also ask some questions about the problems you’re having and your medical history. The next step may be a food diary. You’ll write down the foods you eat and when you have symptoms. Then you’ll share your notes with your doctor.
If she thinks it’s GERD, she’ll start to treat you for it. If that doesn’t work or you have other symptoms, she may do some tests to figure out what’s behind your issues:
Depending on what the exam and tests show, your doctor may recommend treating your condition with one or more over-the-counter medicines like:
Proton pump inhibitors: These medicines offer stronger acid relief than H-2 receptor blockers. They also can help heal damage in your throat or esophagus from acid reflux. They include esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), and rabeprazole (AcipHex).
If over-the-counter medicines haven’t worked after a few weeks, your doctor may give you stronger dosages of H-2 receptor blockers or proton pump inhibitors.
Your doctor may also prescribe a class of drugs known as prokinetics. These drugs help empty your stomach faster and make the muscles in the lower part of your esophagus stronger. They can cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, depression, or anxiety.
You may need a combination of prescription medications to treat severe GERD or frequent attacks. If you use these drugs for a long time, you can have side effects like fractures or a lack of vitamin B-12.
If medications don’t help your symptoms or you want to stop taking them because of side effects, your doctor might recommend surgery like one of the following to tighten your esophagus and control acid reflux while still letting food pass through:
You can do a few things to ease GERD symptoms like heartburn or acid reflux and help prevent other attacks:
You also can try other therapies to relieve GERD symptoms or help with triggers like stress:
Heartburn is a disease that occurs when gastric contents flow backward from the stomach into the esophagus. It is also termed reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or pyrosis.
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