Learning About Acid-Reducing Medicines

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What are they?

Acid-reducing medicines can help relieve heartburn and other symptoms of indigestion. They can help prevent damage to your digestive system from stomach acids. They also are used to treat reflux and ulcer symptoms.

These medicines include H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). They help your stomach make less acid. You can buy them over the counter. Some of them also come in prescription strengths.

Antacids can also help relieve heartburn symptoms. They reduce the acid that is already in your stomach. You can buy them over the counter.

Which medicine is best for you depends on what is causing your symptoms.

How do they work?

Acid-reducing medicines work in two ways. H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) lower the amount of acid your stomach makes. They don't work on the acid that's already there. Antacids work by making stomach juices less acidic. But your heartburn may come back as your stomach makes more acid.

What are some examples?

Examples of acid reducers include:

H2 blockers.
  • Tagamet (cimetidine)
  • Pepcid (famotidine)
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
  • Nexium (esomeprazole)
  • Prevacid (lansoprazole)
  • Prilosec, Zegerid (omeprazole)
  • Protonix (pantoprazole)
  • Aciphex (rabeprazole)
Antacids.
  • Gaviscon
  • Mylanta
  • Maalox
  • Tums

What are side effects might you have?

Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects might go away after a while.

H2 blockers can cause headaches or make you dizzy. They might cause diarrhea or constipation. You may have nausea and vomiting.

PPIs can cause headaches and diarrhea. Using them for a long time may raise your risk for infections or broken bones.

Some antacids can cause constipation or diarrhea. The brands vary in the ingredients they use. They can have different side effects.

If you use too much heartburn medicine, your body may not get enough of some minerals from your food.

How can you take these medicines safely?

Some H2 blockers and PPIs can affect how other medicines work. Tell your doctor if you use other medicines. He or she may change the dose or give you a different medicine.

Many antacids have aspirin in them. Read the label to make sure that you don't take too much. Too much aspirin can be harmful.

Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. If you take over-the-counter medicine, be sure to read and follow all instructions on the label. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you use any other medicines. This includes over-the-counter medicines. Tell your doctor about all of the medicines, vitamins, herbal products, and supplements you take. Taking some medicines together can cause problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.