What Are The Risks of Heartburn Medications?


When medications are available over the counter, it is easy to think that they are safe and without risks. Now that there are so many medications available without a prescription, it is hard to see why you should see a doctor at all. How are you to know when to be concerned and see a doctor versus sticking with over the counter treatments on your own?

The place where you can get into trouble over the counter is with gastrointestinal medications. There are so many options, and they all treat different things. While using OTC for acute problems like diarrhea, constipation and occasional reflux may be fine, there are risks to consider with long term uses for chronic conditions. Medications like Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid are in a class of medicines called proton pump inhibitors, PPI for short, that help to decrease the amount of acid in the stomach. Now that these medications are available without a prescription, the amount of people using them has increased and so has the long term risk.

Long term use of a PPI is linked with malnutrition with vitamin deficiency, kidney damage and higher risks for some infections. Due to the risks that are possible with long term use, it is important to discuss your reasons for taking the medications with your doctor and determine what the best treatment for you will be. There are other medications available without the long term risk as well as non-pharmacological options.

If you only have occasional reflux (less than once a week), try medications like TUMS or Zantac that are not preventative but treat the problem when it comes up. Try avoiding foods or drinks that trigger your reflux symptoms. If you have regular reflux that is uncontrolled by reflux medications or is well controlled but you have never discussed your symptoms with a doctor, you should make an appointment for an evaluation to discuss your options. Concorde Gastro has several locations for your convenience and our doctors specialize in heartburn and acid reflux.

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