Medication that works: Andrew's story

In the beginning, Andrew's heartburn symptoms seemed mild enough to get by without much help.

"It felt like a bit of acid or a burning sensation was coming up my esophagus," relates the 49-year-old safety officer. "It was nothing major."

But over time, things changed. Andrew's symptoms intensified and he recognized he was dealing with a medical condition that required action. A growing number of foods fuelled more extreme burning sensations, and when Andrew burped, he started to notice an after-taste. So, like many other people in similar shoes, Andrew decided to take over-the-counter medications.

Initially, they appeared to be working. "I'd be fine within two minutes," he says. "But over about two more years, I noticed that I had to take more over-the-counter pills more frequently and it just seemed that the further I got on in age, I had to take more and more pills."

With lasting relief still elusive following years of over-the-counter medications, Andrew paid a visit to his family physician for some medical advice.

The doctor gave him a three-month prescription for esomeprazole, a medication that works by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach. It's also used to relieve discomfort and symptoms to damaged areas, such as the esophagus.

"Within two days, I didn't have heartburn problems," Andrew says. "So I took it for three months and then I stopped."

Stopping wasn't a good move. Without the medication, Andrew was back to where he started. In fact, the symptoms became even more cumbersome, affecting his quality of life.

Andrew was now waking up in the middle of the night, coughing as he felt the burning sensation in the back of his throat. "My sleep habits were definitely a problem," he explains. "I was a little more stressed because of the lack of sleep and I couldn't have the foods I loved."

Andrew returned to the doctor's office and was told frankly by his physician that "it looks like esomeprazole is the way to go."

In concert with taking esomeprazole, Andrew made certain lifestyle changes, such as cutting back on alcohol, steering clear of particular problem foods, elevating his bed slightly to help with sleep, and not eating for four to five hours before going to sleep.

The combination of esomeprazole and lifestyle adjustments made a world of difference. Andrew's symptoms went away and his life got back to normal.

"I didn't have any heartburn or indigestion…and esomeprazole allowed me to eat foods I wouldn't normally be able to eat, like bananas or tomatoes. It worked very well for me and I was glad I was taking it."

The treatment options Andrew and his doctor decided upon may not be appropriate for every person with heartburn. But Andrew's story shows that it's important to take action if you continue to experience symptoms - while keeping risks and benefits in mind when deciding on a treatment.

Esomeprazole is an example of a medication that belongs to a group of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs for short. These medications work by reducing the production of acid in the stomach. PPIs are generally well tolerated, although mild and infrequent side effects can include headache, stomach upset, changes in bowel movements, and nausea.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2019. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stopping-Heartburns-Acid-Sting

Pepsin: What's it all about?

After you've polished off a hearty meal and the food has traveled from your esophagus down to your stomach, the digestive process continues. In the stomach, the food is further broken down by a mixture of stomach acid and a variety of enzymes such as pepsin.

Pepsin is a digestive enzyme that is released in the stomach when food is ingested. It functions to break down the proteins in the food you eat. It is initially released in an inactive form and gets activated when it comes into contact with the acid in your stomach (hydrochloric acid). Pepsin works best in a very acidic environment.

When stomach contents back up into the esophagus, you experience the irritation and discomfort referred to as heartburn, a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These stomach contents usually contain acid and pepsin, which can damage the esophagus.

Maintaining a less acidic environment will prevent the discomfort and damage of heartburn, and also keep pepsin in check.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2019. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stopping-Heartburns-Acid-Sting

The role acid plays in heartburn

How much acid is swooshing around in your stomach? If you have heartburn, chances are the answer to that question is "too much"!

Indeed, excess acidity in the gastric juices churning in your stomach can contribute to the discomfort of heartburn, the sensation primarily arising from acid splashing back into the esophagus from your stomach. In addition to being uncomfortable and irritating for the person experiencing it, this "acid reflux" can also cause more serious issues, such as erosions in the esophagus or ulcers.

To understand precisely what's going on with the acid in your stomach, you can refer to the pH scale, which measures acidity levels using a scale of 0 to 14. An important point to remember is that pH measurements and acid levels have an inverse relationship. In other words, the lower the level of acidity, the higher the pH measurement and vice versa. A level of 7 is neutral; things that measure above 7 are called "bases," and can also be corrosive.

Normally, your esophagus has a higher pH than the stomach. This makes sense because normally there is no acid in the esophagus. The lining of the stomach is capable of tolerating an acidic environment. But the esophagus is not so hardy.

When the esophagus comes into contact with stomach acid and other stomach contents, it becomes irritated and, in some people, it can become damaged and inflamed. People can feel chest pain, difficulty swallowing, tightness in the throat, and other symptoms.

So how do you stop this before it becomes a problem?

Doctors commonly recommend that heartburn sufferers take medications to boost the pH levels in the stomach, so that the acid is being suppressed. A target level for the pH level in the stomach is 4 or higher.

Once the pH is at that higher point, even if acid reflux happens again, when the stomach fluids enter the esophagus, they likely won't bother the person because they aren't as acidic.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2019. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stopping-Heartburns-Acid-Sting

Heartburn complications you can't dismiss

Why is untreated heartburn a problem?
The lining of the stomach is strong enough to deal with the damaging effects of stomach acid. The lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach) does not have the same cells and is more sensitive to irritating substances. Therefore, if the lining of your esophagus is continuously exposed to stomach acid, certain complications can occur.

What complications can occur if I don't treat my heartburn?
There are 3 main complications that can occur with frequent, untreated heartburn that have the potential to be dangerous:

  1. Narrowing of the esophagus (stricture). This narrowing can occur by damage to the esophageal lining from frequent contact with stomach acid. The esophagus tries to heal itself by forming scar tissue over the damaged areas. The scar tissue is thicker than the normal lining, and therefore, narrowing of the esophageal tube occurs. Swelling can also occur, which could further narrow the esophagus. When this happens, large pieces of food can get stuck in the narrowed sections and swallowing can become more difficult.
  2. Ulcer of the esophagus. Damage to the esophagus can also lead to sores, or ulcers. These wounds can become painful, making eating difficult, and can also lead to bleeding.
  3. Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is an uncommon but serious condition. There are no symptoms associated with Barrett's esophagus, and the only way to diagnose it is to have an exploratory test known as an endoscopy, where a tube with a camera on the end goes down your throat to have a look at your esophagus. In Barrett's esophagus, the cells in the esophagus have been repeatedly exposed to stomach acid, and in response, they change themselves to look more like the cells in the small intestine. Barrett's esophagus can be dangerous because people with this complication have an increased risk of developing cancer of the esophagus. If you are diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus, your doctor will recommend ongoing monitoring to check for cancer of the esophagus.

How can I prevent these complications?
You can help to prevent these complications from occurring by taking your medication as your doctor prescribed and change things in your lifestyle that aggravate your heartburn. If you are not taking any medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about different options that can help with your symptoms. If you are still experiencing symptoms on your current medication, contact your doctor for alternatives. Complete relief is attainable with the medications available today.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2019. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Stopping-Heartburns-Acid-Sting

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