Acid Reflux (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) is a very common disorder that involves the regurgitation of the stomach inside the esophagus. The disorder produces symptoms such as heartburn, throat inflammation and pain, difficulty swallowing and difficulty breathing.
Some people experience sporadic symptoms of acid reflux, which tend to intensify after meals and during the night. However, most acid reflux disease sufferers may experience ongoing, persistent symptoms. People who are confronted with acid reflux on a frequent time basis are very exposed to the development of serious complications such as Barrett's esophagus and even esophageal cancer. In order to keep the disorder under control and to avoid further complications, people with chronic forms of acid reflux need an appropriate medication treatment.
Treatment of Acid Reflux
The treatment of acid reflux includes medications that normalize the stomach's production of gastric acid. Considering the fact that most cases of acid reflux involve overproduction of digestive fluids and pepsin at the level of the stomach, the treatment of gastro-esophageal reflux disease is very similar to the treatment of ulcer or gastritis.
The most common medications used in the treatment of acid reflux are antacids. Although they provide rapid symptomatic relief for acid reflux sufferers, these medications also have some minuses. Antacids have limited action and they can only act to temporarily control the acidity of the stomach. Also, they are not strong enough to ameliorate acid reflux symptoms in more serious forms of the disorder.
Unlike other acid reflux medications, acid reducers (also known as H2 receptor antagonists or H2 blockers) have proved to be more effective in decreasing the intensity and the frequency of heartburn and other specific manifestations of gastro-esophageal disease. Strong acid reducers can only be purchased with medical prescription, while less strong types of acid reducers are also available in nonprescription forms. While the effects of antacids are diminished after only 2-3 hours, a single dose of acid reducers can prevent the occurrence of acid reflux during the entire day.
Acid reducers can be used either in short-term or long-term medical treatments. The most commonly prescribed acid reducer is ranitidine. This medication is effective in overcoming non-complicated forms of acid reflux disease. A 6-week course of ranitidine can completely eliminate the symptoms of acid reflux for most people with the disorder. For people with more serious forms of gastro-esophageal disease, doctors may prescribe cimetidine or famotidine. Acid reducers have mild side-effects that are usually perceived by people who follow ongoing treatment with such medications. Long-term use of acid reducers can produce headache, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, constipation or diarrhea. These side-effects disappear after reducing the dose of medications or after temporarily interrupting the treatment.
It is important to note that acid reducers aren't appropriate for all acid reflux sufferers. Patients with esophagitis or Barrett's esophagus don't usually respond to treatments with acid reducers. For this category of people, doctors may prescribe proton pump inhibitors, medications that temporarily block the stomach's production of gastric acid.