Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is diagnosed when someone experiences acid reflux symptoms more than twice a week over a long period of time. The condition is extremely common, affecting about 20 percent of Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Most doctors suggest that GERD patients make lifestyle changes to help control their symptoms, such as maintaining a healthy weight, sleeping with their heads elevated, eating smaller portions, and eating more slowly. If these changes fail to control a patient's GERD symptoms, their doctor might recommend other treatment options.
If you experience persistent heartburn or regurgitation of food and you're diagnosed with GERD, your doctor might suggest you try over-the-counter medications first.
Some medications work by simply neutralizing stomach acid, such as Tums and Rolaids. These medications work very quickly, often within minutes. Antacids can be helpful for treating GERD symptoms, but they don't heal the esophagus.
Over-the-counter H-2 receptor blockers, such as Pepcid AC and Tagamet HB, work by reducing how much acid the stomach produces for up to 12 hours. These medications take longer to start working than antacids do, but they also provide longer symptom relief.
Some GERD patients use over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors, such as Prevacid and Prilosec OTC. Proton pump inhibitors are stronger than H-2 receptor blockers and work by blocking acid production, allowing time for damaged areas of the esophagus to heal.
GERD patients who don't get adequate relief from over-the-counter medication often turn to prescription medicine. Many GERD prescriptions are stronger versions of over-the-counter H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
Most prescription GERD medications are tolerated well, though they do come with a slightly increased risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency and bone fractures.
Some GERD patients benefit from taking a prescription muscle relaxer called baclofen. Baclofen reduces how often the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes, which helps control reflux.
When lifestyle changes and medications aren't enough to control GERD symptoms, some patients opt for surgery.
One of the most common surgeries GERD patients undergo is a fundoplication. This procedure involves the surgeon wrapping the top of the patient's stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to tighten the muscle and reduce reflux. Most fundoplication surgeries are minimally invasive, meaning they're done through very small incisions with the aid of a laparoscope.
Some GERD sufferers undergo surgical procedures to have LINX devices placed through small incisions in their abdomens. The LINX device is a ring made of small magnetic beads that the surgeon places around the junction where the stomach meets the esophagus.
The magnets are weak enough that patients can eat normally and food will pass to the stomach without issue. But the magnets are strong enough to keep the junction between the stomach and the esophagus closed when acid starts to rise.
Talk to your doctor about what GERD treatment option would be best for you if you experience acid reflux often.Share