Hoarseness. Antacids may be aluminum, magnesium, or calcium based. Calcium-based antacids (usually calcium carbonate ), unlike other antacids, stimulate the release of gastrin from the stomach and duodenum. Gastrin is the hormone that is primarily responsible for the stimulation of acid secretion my response by the stomach. Therefore, the secretion of acid rebounds after the direct acid-neutralizing effect of the calcium carbonate is exhausted. The rebound is due to the release of gastrin, which results in an overproduction of acid. Theoretically at least, this increased acid is not good for GERD.
PPIs are used when H2 antagonists do not relieve symptoms adequately or when complications of GERD such as erosions or ulcers, strictures, or Barrett’s esophagus exist. Five different PPIs are approved for the treatment of GERD, including omeprazole (Prilosec, Dexilant), lansoprazole ( Prevacid ), rabeprazole ( Aciphex ), pantoprazole ( Protonix ), and esomeprazole ( Nexium ), and dexlansoprazole (Dexilant). A sixth PPI product consists of a combination of omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate ( Zegerid ). PPIs (except for Zegarid) are best taken an hour before meals. The reason for this timing is that the PPIs work best when the stomach is most actively producing acid, which occurs after meals. If the PPI is taken before the meal, it is at peak levels in the body after the meal when the acid is being made.
Who should consider surgery or, perhaps, an endoscopic treatment trial for GERD? (As mentioned previously, the effectiveness of the recently developed endoscopic treatments remains to be determined.) Patients should consider surgery if they have regurgitation that cannot be controlled with drugs. This recommendation is particularly important if the regurgitation results in infections in the lungs or occurs at night when aspiration into the lungs is more likely. Patients also should consider surgery if they require large doses of PPI or multiple drugs to control their reflux. It is debated whether or not a desire to be free of the need to take life-long drugs to prevent symptoms of GERD is by itself a satisfactory reason for having surgery.
There are problems with using pH testing for diagnosing GERD. Despite the fact that normal individuals and patients with GERD can be separated fairly well on the basis of pH studies, the separation is not perfect. Therefore, some patients with GERD will have normal amounts of acid reflux and some patients without GERD will have abnormal amounts of acid reflux. It requires something other than the pH test to confirm the presence of GERD, for example, typical symptoms, response to treatment, or the presence of complications of GERD. GERD also may be confidently diagnosed when episodes of heartburn correlate with acid reflux as shown by acid testing.
Before the introduction of endoscopy, an X-ray of the esophagus (called an esophagram) was the only means of diagnosing GERD. Patients swallowed barium (contrast material), and X-rays of the barium-filled esophagus were then taken. The problem with the esophagram was that it was an insensitive test for diagnosing GERD. That is, it failed to find signs of GERD in many patients who had GERD because the patients had little or no damage to the lining of the esophagus. The X-rays were able to show only the infrequent complications of GERD, for example, ulcers and strictures. X-rays have been abandoned as a means of diagnosing GERD, although they still can be useful along with endoscopy in the evaluation of complications.