How Do Acid Blockers Work To Treat Heartburn
Products like Pepcid AC® are called histamine H2 blockers, or acid blockers. Acid blockers reduce the production of stomach acid. They relieve heartburn, acid indigestion and sour stomach. Always follow the directions on the packaging or talk to your healthcare provider about how to take this medication. Acid blockers you can buy without a prescription include:
Take your acid blocker medicine regularly for as long as directed by your healthcare provider, even if you do not have any pain or if your symptoms get better.
Stronger acid blockers are prescription medications. These can be used to block stomach acid, treat stomach and duodenal ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and GERD. They work by reducing the production of stomach acid. Your healthcare provider will give you a specific prescription for this type of acid blocker.
The United States Food and Drug Administration recently reported elevated levels of a possible carcinogen, NDMA, in the drugs ranitidine and nizatidine . You should speak to your healthcare provider if you are taking one these medications.
Heartburn Or Heart Attack
A heart attack is when the arteries connected to the heart become blocked. Heartburn, on the other hand, occurs when stomach acid travels back up the esophagus.
Some symptoms of heartburn and a heart attack could be similar, such as chest pain. As a result, some people who are having a heart attack do not take action as they think they have heartburn.
If a person experiences heartburn pain alongside shortness of breath or sweating, this could be a heart-related issue.
Other symptoms of a heart attack
When Should I Call My Doctor About My Heartburn
Even though heartburn is common, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. Severe, chronic heartburn has been linked to inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough, GERD, and Barretts esophagus, which may lead to esophageal cancer.
You should contact your doctor if:
- Your heartburn wont go away.
- Your heartburn symptoms become more severe or frequent.
- Its hard or hurts to swallow.
- Your heartburn causes you to vomit.
- You have had substantial, unexpected weight loss.
- You take over-the-counter antacids for more than two weeks and you still have heartburn symptoms.
- You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription medicines.
- You have serious hoarseness or wheezing.
- Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.
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Is Gerd Dangerous Or Life
GERD isnt life-threatening or dangerous in itself. But long-term GERD can lead to more serious health problems:
- Esophagitis: Esophagitis is the irritation and inflammation the stomach acid causes in the lining of the esophagus. Esophagitis can cause ulcers in your esophagus, heartburn, chest pain, bleeding and trouble swallowing.
- Barrett’s esophagus: Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that develops in some people who have long-term GERD. The damage acid reflux can cause over years can change the cells in the lining of the esophagus. Barretts esophagus is a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.
- Esophageal cancer: Cancer that begins in the esophagus is divided into two major types. Adenocarcinoma usually develops in the lower part of the esophagus. This type can develop from Barretts esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the cells that line the esophagus. This cancer usually affects the upper and middle part of the esophagus.
- Strictures: Sometimes the damaged lining of the esophagus becomes scarred, causing narrowing of the esophagus. These strictures can interfere with eating and drinking by preventing food and liquid from reaching the stomach.
What Are Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton pump inhibitors are medications that decrease the amount of stomach acid that the stomach produces. They are more effective for providing heartburn relief than H2 blockers. They also work better to help heal the esophagus. Both over-the-counter and prescription versions of these medications are available. They need to be taken on an empty stomach. Examples of PPIs include lansoprazole , pantoprazole , esomeprazole , omeprazole , and Rabeprazole . PPIs should not be taken long-term nor in high doses because this is associated with an increased risk of fractures of the wrists, spine, and hips.
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Opt For Cooked Onions Instead Of Raw
Raw onions are a common trigger for acid reflux and heartburn.
One older study in people with acid reflux showed that eating a meal containing raw onion significantly increased heartburn, acid reflux, and burping, compared with consuming an identical meal that didnt contain onions .
More frequent burping might suggest that more gas is being produced. This could be due to the high amounts of fermentable fiber in onions .
Raw onions are also more difficult to digest and might irritate the lining of the esophagus, causing worsened heartburn .
Whatever the reason, if you think eating raw onion makes your symptoms worse, you should avoid it and opt for cooked onions instead.
Some people experience worsened heartburn and other reflux symptoms after eating raw onions.
Emergency Symptoms Of Acid Reflux Disease
According to research, acid reflux disease accounts for around 22 66% of the visit to emergency rooms for chest pain. The majority of patients take this condition as some sort of emergency related to the heart. It is due to the fact that the primary symptom of heart attack and acid reflux disease is the same i.e., heartburn. As symptoms of this disease are usually similar enough, you should take them seriously and get yourself checked for more severe problems such as heart attack.
Get a medical treatment in emergency instantly if you have:
- heartburn which seems different or gets worsens than usual
- Severe pain in the chest
- A crushing, tightening and squeezing sensation in the chest.
Emergency care is also critical if the pain is felt during any physical activity or along with:
- Pain extending towards the left arm, back, jaw, neck or shoulder
- Difficulty in breathing
Other than a heart attack, acid reflux symptoms can signal other serious problems as well. Call 911 immediately if the color of your stool becomes tar black or maroon or if the color of your vomitus is bloody, black, or resembles coffee grounds. These are probably signs of bleeding in your stomach, often because of peptic ulcer disease.
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Tests And Surgery For Heartburn And Acid Reflux
If medicines do not help or your symptoms are severe, your GP may refer you to a specialist for:
- tests to find out what’s causing your symptoms, such as a gastroscopy
- an operation on your stomach to stop acid reflux called a laparoscopic fundoplication
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE
Is There Surgery To Treat Gerd
GERD is usually controlled with medications and lifestyle changes . If these dont work, or if you cant take medications for an extended period, surgery may be a solution.
- Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is the standard surgical treatment. Its a minimally invasive procedure that fixes your acid reflux by creating a new valve mechanism at the bottom of your esophagus. The surgeon wraps the upper part of the stomach around the lower portion of the esophagus. This reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter so food wont reflux back into the esophagus.
- LINX deviceimplantation is another minimally invasive surgery. A LINX device is a ring of tiny magnets that are strong enough to keep the junction between the stomach and esophagus closed to refluxing acid but weak enough to allow food to pass through.
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What Medications Do I Take To Manage The Symptoms Of Gerd
Many over-the-counter and prescription medications relieve GERD. Most of OTC drugs come in prescription strength too. Your provider will give you a prescription for these stronger drugs if youre not getting relief from the OTC formulas.
The most common GERD medications:
- Antacids include Tums®, Rolaids®, Mylanta®, Riopan® and Maalox®.
- H-2 receptor blockers include Tagamet®, Pepcid AC®, Axid AR® and Zantac®.
- Proton pump inhibitors include Prevacid®, Prilosec®, Zegerid®, Nexium®, Protonix®, AcipHex® and Dexilant®.
- Baclofen is a prescription drug used to reduce the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter which allows acid backwash.
What Tests Might Be Done
Tests are not usually necessary if you have typical symptoms. Many people experiencing acid leaking up into the gullet are diagnosed with ‘presumed acid reflux’. In this situation they have typical symptoms and the symptoms are eased by treatment. Tests may be advised if symptoms are severe, or do not improve with treatment, or are not typical of GORD.
- Gastroscopy is the common test. A thin, flexible telescope is passed down the oesophagus into the stomach. This allows a doctor or nurse to look inside. With inflammation of the lining of the oesophagus , the lower part of the oesophagus looks red and inflamed. However, if it looks normal it does not rule out acid reflux. Some people are very sensitive to small amounts of acid and can have symptoms with little or no inflammation to see. Two terms that are often used after an endoscopy are:
- Oesophagitis. This term is used when the oesophagus can be seen to be inflamed.
- Endoscopy-negative reflux disease. This term is used when someone has typical symptoms of reflux but endoscopy is normal.
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Measure Yourself On The Richter Scale/acid Test
How significant is your heartburn? What are the chances that it is something more serious? If you need a yardstick, here’s a simple self-test developed by a panel of experts from the American College of Gastroenterology.
Remember, if you have heartburn two or more times a week, or still have symptoms on your over-the-counter or prescription medicines, see your doctor.
Take this “Richter Scale/Acid Test” to see if you’re a GERD sufferer and are taking the right steps to treat it.
If you said yes to two or more of the above, you may have GERD. To know for sure, see your doctor or a gastrointestinal specialist. They can help you live pain free.
How Is Heartburn & Reflux Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask you to describe your reflux symptoms and the length of time you have had them and review the need for prescribing you acid-suppressant medication. Should you require such medication long term or the treatment is not working, and your symptoms continue or return, your GP may request an endoscopy. This will ensure there are no underlying problems with your oesophagus or stomach. Up to half of all patients with symptoms that suggest they have reflux turn out to have only mild inflammation or an oesophagus that looks quite normal.
Cytosponge: This is a new test that is available in some areas of the UK to identify Barretts oesophagus in people who have persistent heartburn and reflux symptoms. For the Cytosponge test you swallow a small capsule with a sponge inside, which is attached to a piece of thread. Approximately 7 min after swallowing it, the capsule dissolves in the stomach, and the sponge inside is released and then a nurse removes the sponge by pulling on the thread. On the way out the sponge collects cells from the oesophagus lining so that the laboratory can check if there are any changes in the cells.
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What Are Prescription Medications For Heartburn
If over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers do not relieve your heartburn, your healthcare provider may give you a prescription for other medicines, such as:
- Prescription-strength acid blockers: In prescription-strength , Zantac®, Tagamet®, Pepcid® and Axid® can generally relieve heartburn and treat GERD.
- Proton pump inhibitors: These are drugs that block acid production more effectively. Proton pump inhibitors include Aciphex®, Nexium®, Prevacid®, Prilosec® and Protonix®.
There are some proton pump inhibitors that can be purchased over-the-counter. Talk to your healthcare provider about these medications and what is best for you.
How To Prevent Heartburn And Acid Reflux
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Many people suffer from heartburn and acid reflux where they face painful, burning sensations in the chest. Acid reflux is a common condition that causes heartburn. It is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Let’s find out some natural ways to reduce your acid reflux and heartburn.
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How Do Antacids Work To Treat Heartburn
Antacids reduce the amount of stomach acid, relieving your heartburn. These medications can also be used to soothe stomach upset, indigestion and other pains in your stomach. Some antacids contain simethicone, which reduces gas. Antacids that you can get without a prescription include:
Make sure you always follow the instructions on the package or talk to your doctor about the right way to use an antacid. If you use tablets, chew them well before swallowing for faster relief.
When Tests May Be Needed
You’ll usually only need to be referred for tests in hospital if:
- your GP is unsure whether you have GORD
- your symptoms are persistent, severe or unusual
- prescription medications aren’t controlling your symptoms
- your GP thinks you might benefit from surgery
- you have signs of a potentially more severe condition, such as difficulty swallowing or unexplained weight loss
Tests can help to confirm the diagnosis of GORD, check for other possible causes of your symptoms and determine whether you may be suitable for surgery.
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What Are H2 Blockers
H2 blockers are another treatment option for heartburn relief. They are available over-the-counter and by prescription. As their name suggests, the block the production of stomach acid. H2 blockers should be taken 30 minutes prior to meals to be most effective. Some doctors may recommend taking both H2 blockers and antacids to control symptoms. Another benefit of H2 blockers is that they help heal the esophagus, reversing damage done by stomach acid. Examples of H2 blockers include ranitidine , cimetidine , nizatidine , and famotidine .
What Are The Common Acid Reflux Symptoms
Heartburn, regurgitation, and dyspepsia are a few of the most common acid reflux symptoms.
Heartburn. Also called acid indigestion, heartburn is a burning pain or discomfort that can move up from your stomach to the middle of your abdomen and chest. The pain can also move into your throat. Despite its name, heartburn doesn’t affect your heart.
Regurgitation. Another common symptom of acid reflux is regurgitation — or the sensation of acid backing up into your throat or mouth. Regurgitation can produce a sour or bitter taste, and you may experience “wet burps.”
Dyspepsia. Many people with acid reflux disease also have a syndrome called dyspepsia. Dyspepsia is a general term for stomach discomfort. Symptoms of dyspepsia include:
- Upper abdominal pain and discomfort
Symptoms of acid reflux may be a sign that stomach acid has inflamed your esophagus. When that happens, stomach acid can damage the lining of your esophagus and cause bleeding. Over time, it can also change the cells of esphagus and cause cancer .
Although acid reflux is extremely common and rarely serious, don’t ignore your acid reflux symptoms. Making a few lifestyle changes and using over-the-counter antacids are often all you need to control acid reflux symptoms.
Dont Drink Too Much Coffee
Studies have found that coffee temporarily relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of acid reflux .
Some evidence also points toward caffeine as a possible cause. Similarly to coffee, caffeine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which could cause reflux .
Nevertheless, although several studies suggest that coffee and caffeine may worsen acid reflux for some people, the evidence is not entirely conclusive.
For example, one analysis of observational studies found no significant effects of coffee intake on the self-reported symptoms of GERD.
Yet, when researchers investigated the signs of acid reflux with a small camera, they found coffee consumption was linked to greater acid damage in the esophagus .
Thus, whether coffee intake worsens acid reflux may depend on the individual. If you find coffee gives you heartburn, its best to simply avoid it or limit your intake.
Evidence suggests that coffee may make acid reflux and heartburn worse. If you feel like coffee worsens your symptoms, consider limiting your intake.
Which Heartburn Treatment Is Right For You
The type of heartburn treatment that is right for you depends on a variety of factors. The frequency and severity of your symptoms are important considerations. Some medications provide relief from current symptoms while other medications are designed to prevent symptoms before they start. If you are unsure of which heartburn treatment to take, have a discussion with your doctor. Your physician can evaluate your condition and take into account any additional medical conditions you have and medications you may be taking and make an appropriate treatment recommendation.
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