What Is the Best Prescription Medicine for Acid Reflux – Overview
When stomach acid rushes back into the esophagus, it causes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (the tube connecting your mouth and stomach). The esophagus lining may become irritated by this “acid reflux” or backwash. It is common for people to experience acid reflux from time to time, but the problem arises when this becomes a frequent occurrence and develops into full-blown GERD.
Most people can manage GERD with medications and lifestyle changes, while a few people may require surgical treatment to stop GERD completely.
Signs and Symptoms of GERD
The commonly seen signs and symptoms of GERD include:
- Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) mainly after eating and may get worse with time
- Regurgitation (backwash) or food or sour liquid
- Upper abdominal or chest pain
- Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing food or drinks)
- Feeling a lump in the throat
If you suffer from night-time acid reflux, you may also experience the following:
- Constant cough
- New/worsening asthma
- Laryngitis (inflammation of vocal cords)
If you have chest pain, especially when accompanied by shortness of breath, or pain in the jaw or arm, you should immediately seek medical care as these may often be a sign of a heart attack. Besides this, if you experience frequent or severe symptoms of GERD or take over-the-counter medication for heartburn more than twice a week, it is highly recommended to visit a doctor as soon as possible.
Causes of GERD
GERD is usually caused by frequent acid reflux or reflux of non-acidic content from the stomach.
The lower esophageal sphincter, a tiny, circular band of muscle that surrounds the bottom portion of your esophagus, is involved in the swallowing process. This area relaxes for food and liquids to enter your stomach from the mouth.
However, the sphincter immediately closes once the morsel of food or sip of liquid passes down. If this sphincter does not relax as it should (or weakens), the stomach from the acid can flow back into the esophagus. This frequent back-flow of acid irritates the esophagus’s soft inner lining and causes it to become inflamed.
3 Diagnosis Tests of GERD
GERD is usually diagnosed by a healthcare professional by perusing any history of signs or symptoms along with a complete physical examination.
To confirm the GERD diagnosis, the doctor may recommend you undergo the following diagnostic tests:
1. Upper Endoscopy
In this diagnostic test for GERD, the doctor will insert an endoscope (thin, flexible tube fitted with tiny light and camera) down your throat. This endoscope helps the doctor to see clearly inside your esophagus and stomach. This test is usually useful to detect inflammation of the esophagus, called esophagitis, or other complications. This technique can also be used to perform a biopsy (collect a tissue sample from the esophagus) to test for Barrett’s esophagus and other complications.
2. X-Ray of the Digestive System
This x-ray procedure for diagnosing GERD involves ingesting a chalky liquid that covers and fills the inner lining of your digestive tract. This coating lets the doctor see a silhouette of your esophagus and stomach. This test is mostly advised for people who have difficulty swallowing.
3. Esophageal Manometry
This test counts the regular muscular contractions that occur as you swallow in your esophagus. The test also evaluates the coordination and force exerted by the esophageal muscles. This test is also ideally used when the patient reports difficulty while swallowing.
Medicinal Treatments for GERD
The primary treatment for GERD usually involves taking non-prescription medication and making lifestyle changes. However, if you don’t experience relief within a few weeks, your doctor may recommend certain prescription medicines and additional tests.
Some of the best prescription medicine for acid reflux includes:
Antacids that contain calcium carbonate (e.g. Tums, Rolaids, Mylanta) often provide quick relief for acid reflux. However, antacids alone cannot heal an inflamed esophagus that has been damaged by stomach acid. Besides, overuse of certain antacids can often cause side effects, such as diarrhea and kidney problems.
2. Medications to Reduce Acid Production
Histamine (H-2) blockers (e.g. Tagamet HB, Axid AR, Pepcid AC) are slower to take effect than antacid tablets. However, these medications tend to provide relief for longer and may also lower the production of acid in the stomach for nearly 12 hours.
3. Medications That Block Acid Production and Heal the Esophagus
Proton pump inhibitors are stronger than acid blockers compared to H-2 blockers. These medications also allow time for the damaged esophagus lining to heal completely.
In case these medications are not effective in your case, the doctor may recommend stronger alternative treatment methods, including surgical treatment.
The best prescription medicine for acid reflux includes esomeprazole (Nexium), omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (Aciphex), pantaprazole (Protonix) and dexlansoprazole (Dexilant). If these prescription medicines do not successfully treat GERD, the doctor may advise you to undergo additional treatment, including surgical treatment.
Make sure to talk with your primary care physician to know all the treatment and preventive options you can effectively use to cure acid reflux permanently.
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