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Reflux


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Reflux is the common name for an assortment of symptoms that occur when stomach acid backs up in the stomach and enters the esophagus through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Reflux is often referred to as GERD, an acronym for the official medical term for the condition, "gastro esophageal reflux disease," or as "gastric reflux" or "acid reflux."

Treatment For GERD

Prescription medicine and over-the-counter medications are a common reflux treatment. Some of these elements work by neutralizing stomach acid after it is produced; others inhibit the production of acid in the stomach.

Nonprescription medicines or home remedies are advised when patients suffer infrequently from reflux, or when the symptoms are not severe. Frequent, severe symptoms should be treated under a doctor's care. Over time, the introduction of stomach acid into the esophagus can cause long-term, permanent damage to the esophagus, including making it more susceptible to certain cancers.

Over-the-counter reflux relievers like Gaviscon, Mylanta, Tums, or Rolaids, often provide relief for occasional heartburn. These antacids are inexpensive and should be tried before more drastic remedies are attempted.

Acid reducers, also known as H2 blockers, work by reducing the amount of the acid in the stomach. These reflux remedies can be purchased in concentrated forms with a prescription or over the counter in weaker concentrations. Examples of H2 blockers are Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac.

When taking over-the-counter medications without a doctor's supervision, patients must remember that stomach acid plays an important role in the digestion of food. Patients should follow the dosage recommended on the package and consult their doctors if their reflux symptoms persist.

Prescription medications like Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, and Aciphex are sometimes prescribed when H2 blockers have failed to control the patient's reflux. These medications inhibit the production of stomach acid and help to heal the inflammation of the esophagus created by GERD.

The most drastic prescription medication for treatment of GERD is Reglan, a prokinetic agent that makes the LES close more tightly, preventing stomach acid from entering the esophagus. Reglan is often considered a last resort because of frequent, severe side effects associated with its use.

Non-Invasive Treatment

Many GERD sufferers find relief from their symptoms without resorting to medications. Sleeping on the left side, raising the head of the bed ten inches higher than the foot of the bed, and restricting food and drink for three hours before going to bed have all proved effective for treating mild GERD symptoms.

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