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What are the Different Treatments for GERD?

By S. McNesby
Updated May 17, 2024
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Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a condition that causes the contents of the stomach to regurgitate back into the esophagus, causing chronic pain in most patients. GERD can be treated with a variety of methods and should be diagnosed and monitored by a physician. Treatments for GERD may be chosen based on the severity of the condition and include prescription medication, diet and lifestyle changes, and, in extreme cases, surgery.

GERD is a chronic medical condition. Once a patient has been diagnosed with GERD, he will likely have it forever; treatments are designed to manage symptoms. Combining medication and lifestyle changes relieves symptoms in most patients.

After an initial diagnosis, treatment for GERD often includes changes to the patient's diet and lifestyle. Eliminating caffeine, avoiding acidic foods, and losing weight will all help reduce the symptoms of GERD. Other lifestyle-related treatments for GERD include modifying how much food is consumed in a single meal and how quickly food is consumed. Doctors often recommend changes to sleeping or resting positions to reduce the amount of reflux as well.

If the patient is unable or unwilling to make lifestyle changes, or if the changes don't relieve the symptoms, other treatments for GERD can be used. Prescription medications can help by reducing the amount of acid the stomach produces, or by neutralizing the acid so it doesn't cause pain. Over the counter medications are usually not effective treatments for GERD; most sufferers require stronger medication available only by prescription.

Treatments for GERD that work by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach are called H2 blockers. These work well for about half of the patients they are prescribed for and have minimal reported side effects. Other medical treatments for GERD are Proton Pump Inhibitors(PPIs), which work for almost 90% of patients who use them. PPIs work by limiting the stomach's ability to secrete acid. Both types of medical treatments for GERD must be used continually to be effective; they do not cure GERD, but they manage the symptoms.

In extreme cases of GERD, surgical repair may be required. Surgery is used when medical treatments no longer work, when the esophagus has been severely eroded by acid, or when the patient is unable to take medications for the condition. Surgical procedures for GERD are considered a last resort, and sometimes cause unwanted side effects. H2blockers or PPIs may still need to be taken after surgery in some cases.

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