Treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—a condition in which stomach acid rises back up into the esophagus—is often a case-by-case process in which your doctor prescribes different types of treatments depending on the severity of your case. Your doctor may start with suggestions for lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medications, and if those don’t alleviate the symptoms of your GERD, your doctor may then suggest a medication called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). Below we’ll go over the relation of PPIs and GERD, and what you need to know when it comes to your GERD treatment.  

What is a proton pump inhibitor?

To put it simply, proton pump inhibitors are the strongest medication available to treat stomach acid, which causes the symptoms of GERD, over a predetermined period of time. Proton pump inhibitors work to reduce the production of acid in the by blocking the enzyme in stomach wall that produces the acid. The reduction of acid gives any damaged tissue in the esophagus and the stomach time to heal. PPIs also help prevent heartburn caused by GERD. 

Side Effects of PPIs

The most common side effects of proton pump inhibitors include:

·       Headaches

·       Constipation

·       Nausea

·       Gas

·       Bloating

·       Abdominal pain

·       Fever

·       Vomiting

There have also been reported long-term side effects from PPIs that occur over periods of overuse, including an increased risk for certain illnesses.

PPIs vs Surgery for GERD

 As mentioned, PPIs are designed for short-term relief by allowing time for the damaged tissue and ulcers to heal. Most PPIs are recommended for use from 4-8 weeks. If you don’t experience relief from your GERD symptoms after that time, your doctor may suggest a consultation for surgery.

There are different options when it comes to GERD surgeries, including: 

LINX® procedure: The LINX® procedure is a minimally invasive, laparoscopic procedure during which a band of magnetic beads is placed around the LES to strengthen it. Using magnetic attraction, the beads are able to keep the LES closed tightly so that no stomach acid moves through.

TIF/EsophyX Procedure: The TIF/EsophyX procedure is a surgical procedure that folds a small portion of the upper stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter and strengthened by fasteners. This procedure repairs the weakened LES that causes GERD.

Nissen Fundoplication: This surgery is slightly more invasive than the LINX® or TIF procedures, as it is done through five small incisions and similarly to the TIF procedure. During this surgery, the doctor will fold part of the upper stomach around the lower esophagus to structurally repair the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach acid.

All of these surgeries treat the root cause of GERD, rather than simply treating the symptoms associated with the condition, which is why they’re a more effective solution for GERD treatment than PPI’s or other medications. While PPIs can relieve some of the symptom-related discomfort associated with GERD short-term, they are not recommended for long-term use. If your goal is to effectively get rid of your GERD symptoms for good, surgery is your best bet. Talk to your doctor to determine what the proper course of treatment is for your GERD.