Medical Treatment for Acid Reflux Disease

Find relief from heartburn and acid reflux in Atlanta with medications for GERD.

Anti-reflux medications are successfully used to reduce the severity and frequency of acid reflux symptoms for people with GERD. Medications are often recommended as a second-line of defense against chronic reflux and heartburn, alongside changes to diet and lifestyle, which may include weight loss and smoking cessation.

While some anti-reflux medications are available over-the-counter, it is not recommended that any heartburn medications are used for a prolonged period of time, especially without the supervision of your reflux doctor.

It is important to realize that reflux medications mask symptoms they do not resolve the cause of heartburn.  For this reason it is still possible for reflux to be causing damage to your upper gastrointestinal tract even though you are not experiencing severe symptoms.   Long-term use of some reflux medications is associated with other health problems particularly loss of bone density and interactions with other medications. Medications for GERD are usually prescribed for life as serious GERD will not resolve without surgery.

About Anti-Reflux Medications

The goal of heartburn medications is to reduce the frequency and severity at which digestive juices from the stomach, such as acid, backwash into the esophagus and cause irritation. Medications are able to alleviate some reflux by managing the production of acid in the stomach.

There are several different types of anti-reflux medications:

  • Antacids: This is a common form of medication that is easily obtained over-the-counter. Antacids can regulate heartburn by neutralizing stomach acids. A major shortcoming of antacids is that they cannot be used as a preventative, but instead only work after heartburn has begun.
  • H-2 Receptor Blockers: Another medication that is sometimes available over-the-counter, H-2 receptor blockers work by actually reducing the production of acid in the stomach. More effective versions of this medication can be obtained through a prescription from your acid reflux doctor.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors: PPIs are designed to actually help the esophagus heal from previous damage by blocking the production of acid, and thereby reducing the chance of acid refluxing and irritating the esophageal lining. PPIs can be obtained through a prescription and should not be taken without medical guidance.
  • Prokinetic Agents: This form of medication is available exclusively through a prescription and should only be used with direct supervision from your physician. Prokinetic agents work by speeding the rate at which the stomach empty’s its contents while simultaneously tightening the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve that is responsible for separating the stomach from the esophagus and preventing acid from backwashing in the first place.

Heartburn medications are used to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux, but are not a cure for GERD. For some people, a combination of medication and lifestyle changes is enough to alleviate the pain of acid reflux. If acid reflux symptoms do not subside after the introduction of medications, surgical intervention may be necessary.