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Heartburn and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) can often be treated with self-help measures and over-the-counter medicines.
If these don't help, your GP can prescribe stronger medication or refer you to a specialist to discuss whether surgery may be an option.
This page covers:
You may find the following measures can help reduce heartburn and other symptoms of GORD:
If you're taking medication for other health conditions, check with your GP to find out whether they could be contributing to your symptoms.
Different medicines may be available, but don't stop taking any prescribed medication without consulting your GP first.
A number of different medications can be used to treat symptoms of GORD.
Over-the-counter heartburn and GORD medicines are available from pharmacies without a prescription. The main types are:
These medicines aren't suitable for everyone, so you should check the leaflet first. Ask a pharmacist for advice if you're not sure.
If your symptoms don't get better despite trying self-help measures and over-the-counter medicines, your GP may prescribe a PPI. These work by reducing the amount of acid produced by your stomach.
You'll usually be given enough medication to last a month. Go back to your GP if they don't help or your symptoms return after treatment finishes. Some people need to take PPIs on a long-term basis.
Your GP will prescribe the lowest dose that they think will control your symptoms to reduce the risk of side effects.
If PPIs don't control your symptoms, a medicine known as a H2RA may be recommended for you to take alongside them on a short-term basis, or as an alternative.
Like PPIs, H2RAs reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach.
Side effects of H2RAs are uncommon, but can include diarrhoea, headaches, dizziness, a rash and tiredness.
Surgery may be an option if:
The main procedure used is called a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication (LNF). Alternative techniques have been developed more recently, although these aren't yet widely available.
LNF is a type of laparoscopic or "keyhole" surgery. This means it's carried out using special surgical instruments inserted through small cuts (incisions) in the skin.
The procedure is used to tighten the ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus, which helps to stop acid leaking up from the stomach. It's carried out in hospital under general anaesthetic.
Most people need to stay in hospital for two or three days after the procedure. Depending on your job, you may be able to return to work within three to six weeks.
For the first six weeks after surgery, you should only eat soft food, such as mince, mashed potatoes or soup. Some people experience problems with swallowing, belching and bloating after LNF, but these should get better with time.
In the last few years, several new techniques for treating GORD have been developed.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says these procedures appear to be safe, but not much is known about their long-term effects.
These techniques include:
Speak to your surgeon about these techniques for more information.