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GERD Treatment Overview

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Treating GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms like acid reflux, heartburn, and regurgitation can often be treated at home by changing some eating habits and trying OTC medications. It can take about 6 weeks of lifestyle changes and medications to feel better.

  • Eating habits: Changes may include having smaller meals, not eating right before bed, and experimenting with an elimination diet (not eating certain foods) to try to figure out what makes your acid reflux worse.
  • OTC GERD medications include antacids, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and H2 blockers. They work in different ways to lower the amount of acid in your stomach, which helps symptoms.

People with moderate to severe symptoms may need prescription medications. Most people can get their acid reflux under control and will no longer need GERD medication. But if symptoms are severe, it may take longer—about 4 months—before you feel better.

GERD treatment next steps

GERD can usually be treated at home, but if you have acid reflux or other symptoms more than twice a week, or your symptoms disrupt your sleep, consider seeing a primary care doctor.

It’s important to get treatment for acid reflux because stomach acid can damage your esophagus over time and cause long-term problems.

GERD symptoms can also be confused with more serious conditions like heart disease. Older adults and others at risk for heart disease who have acid reflux or heartburn should talk to a doctor to make sure it’s not a heart problem.

Go to the ER if you have any of these symptoms, which could be a sign of a more serious condition: difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, black tarry stool, vomiting, and unexplained weight loss.

Medical tests & labs

Your doctor may diagnose and treat GERD without testing. But if treatments aren’t helping, you may need an endoscopy (a thin scope that helps the doctor examine your digestive tract). The doctor then sends a biopsy of your stomach wall to a laboratory. This is usually done by a gastroenterologist (digestive disease specialist).

Depending on the results, a doctor will discuss with you what medications you should try and other ways to treat the problem.

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