What treatment options cure gastroesophageal reflux disease?
Doctors recommend lifestyle and dietary changes for most people with GERD. Treatment aims at decreasing the amount of reflux or reducing damage to the lining of the esophagus from refluxed materials. Lifestyle modifications are a key component in the management of GERD and should be incorporated into all treatment stages. Modifications include elevating the head of the bed by six inches, decreasing fat intake, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, losing weight, avoiding recumbency for three hours postprandially and not consuming large meals and certain types of food.
Avoiding foods and beverages that can weaken the LES is recommended. These foods include chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee, and alcoholic beverages. Foods and beverages that can irritate a damaged esophageal lining, such as citrus fruits and juices, tomato products, and pepper, should also be avoided. Decreasing the size of portions at mealtime may also help control symptoms. Eating meals at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime may lessen reflux by allowing the acid in the stomach to decrease and the stomach to empty partially. In addition, being overweight often worsens symptoms. Many overweight people find relief when they lose weight. Cigarette smoking weakens the LES. Therefore, stopping smoking is important to reduce GERD symptoms. Elevating the head of the bed on 6-inch blocks or sleeping on a specially designed wedge reduces heartburn by allowing gravity to minimize reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus.
Antacids taken regularly can neutralize acid in the esophagus and stomach and stop heartburn. Many people find that nonprescription antacids provide temporary or partial relief. An antacid combined with a foaming agent such as alginic acid helps some people. These compounds are believed to form a foam barrier on top of the stomach that prevents acid reflux from occuring. Antacids neutralize the acid in the stomach so that there is no acid to reflux. The problem with antacids is that their action is brief. They are emptied from the empty stomach quickly, in less than an hour, and the acid then re-accumulates. The best way to take antacids, therefore, is approximately one hour after meals or just before the symptoms of reflux begin after a meal. Since the food from meals slows the emptying from the stomach, an antacid taken after a meal stays in the stomach longer and is effective longer. For the same reason, a second dose of antacids approximately two hours after a meal takes advantage of the continuing post-meal slower emptying of the stomach and replenishes the acid-neutralizing capacity within the stomach. Long-term use of antacids, however, can result in side effects, including diarrhea, altered calcium metabolism (a change in the way the body breaks down and uses calcium), and buildup of magnesium in the body. Too much magnesium can be serious for patients with kidney disease. If antacids are needed for more than 3 weeks, a doctor should be consulted.
For chronic reflux and heartburn, the doctor may prescribe medications to reduce acid in the stomach. These medicines include H2 blockers, which inhibit acid secretion in the stomach. Currently, four H2 blockers are available: cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine, and ranitidine. Another type of drug, the proton pump (or acid pump) inhibitor omeprazole inhibits an enzyme (a protein in the acid-producing cells of the stomach) necessary for acid secretion. The acid pump inhibitor lansoprazole is currently under investigation as a new treatment for GERD. A variety of proton pump inhibitors are available by prescription, including omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Protonix), and rabeprazole (Aciphex). Prokinetic drugs may help to decrease esophageal reflux, but usually are not used as the only treatment for GERD. They help the stomach to empty faster, which decreases the amount of time during which reflux can occur. The most commonly prescribed prokinetic drug is metoclopramide (Reglan). Mucosal protectors coat, soothe and protect the irritated esophageal lining. One example is sucralfate (Carafate).
Surgery is an option for people with severe, difficult-to-control GERD symptoms or people who have complications such as asthma or pneumonia, or strictures (blockages) of the esophagus from scar tissue. Some people who do not want to take medications for a long time may choose laparoscopic surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery is less invasive than conventional surgery, and is proving to be successful in treating GERD. In a procedure called laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication, excess stomach tissue is folded around the esophagus to tighten stretched or weakened esophageal tissues. This operation appears to relieve symptoms about as much as prescription acid-blocking medicines. The success rates of surgery might be lower for people whose symptoms are not relieved by anti-acid medicines. Following surgery, about one out of five people will have a lasting bothersome side effect. These potential side effects include swallowing difficulty, diarrhea and the inability to belch or vomit to relieve bloating or nausea.
More information on gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux, GERD)
What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux)? - Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach contents, including acid, back up (reflux) into the esophagus, causing inflammation and damage to the esophagus.
What causes gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Gastroesophageal reflux disease is often the result of conditions that affect the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Dietary and lifestyle choices may contribute to GERD.
What are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common symptom of reflux. The most common symptoms in children are repeated vomiting, coughing, and other respiratory problems.
What're the complications of gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease can lead to a number of serious problems, such as bleeding ulcers in the esophagus, and scarring leading to narrowing of the esophagus.
How is gastroesophageal reflux disease diagnosed? - Useful diagnosing methods include barium swallow X-rays, esophageal manometry, esophageal pH monitoring and EGD.
What're the treatments for gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Doctors recommend lifestyle and dietary changes for most people with GERD. Lifestyle modifications are a key component in the management of GERD and should be incorporated into all treatment stages.
What GERD medications treat gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Antacids remain the drugs of choice for quick relief of symptoms associated with GERD. H2-Receptor blockers are indicated for the prevention and relief of heartburn, acid indigestion and sour stomach.
What surgery treats gastroesophageal reflux disease? - Surgery is indicated for a small group of patients with GERD. The standard surgical treatment, sometimes preferred over longtime use of medication, is the Nissen fundoplication.
How to prevent gastroesophageal reflux disease with lifestyle? - A correct life style is effective to prevent the symptoms of GERD. Avoid foods that promote opening of the esophageal sphincter and increase acid reflux.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease in infants and children - Infants are more likely to have the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relax when it should remain shut. Infants are easier for the stomach contents to reflux up into the esophagus.
What is hiatal hernia? - A hiatal hernia is named for the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm between your chest and your stomach. There are two types of hiatal hernias.