Proton pump inhibitors for GORD/heartburn
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs taken to reduce the secretion of stomach acid.
They are a popular option for treating symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) in which stomach acid leaks up into the oesophagus (gullet).
GORD often occurs when the ring of muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus becomes weakened.
Symptoms of GORD include a burning sensation in the chest and throat, called heartburn, and acid reflux, where acid and stomach contents are regurgitated into the throat or mouth.
PPIs reduce the amount of acid in the stomach so that if gastric fluid leaks into the oesophagus it will be less likely to damage its lining.
Low-dose PPIs are available over-the-counter at pharmacies and supermarkets.
Your GP may prescribe PPIs when appropriate, for example if symptoms persist despite lifestyle measures and over-the-counter treatment. A typical course of treatment will last 4 to 8 weeks to allow your body to heal from any inflammation.
You will need to go back to your GP if symptoms return.
There are a number of types of PPIs with different names. These include:
PPIs can cause a range of side-effects. These include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and headaches.
They can also increase the risk of fractures, particularly among older people who have taken high doses of PPIs for over a year.
There is an added risk that high levels of stomach acid and long-lasting heartburn may be experienced after stopping long-term treatment with PPIs. It is advisable to stop taking PPIs gradually and follow the advice of your healthcare professional to help manage symptoms in the first few weeks.
Studies have also linked PPIs with a number of health risks, including kidney disease. There is also concern that treatment with PPIs might be bad for you because they could mask symptoms of stomach cancer, leading to a delay in diagnosis and treatment.