H2 Blockers (Acid Reducers) for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
H2 blockers (also sometimes referred to as acid reducers or H2 receptor antagonists) are available in nonprescription and prescription forms. Prescription forms are stronger than the nonprescription forms.
H2 blockers are usually taken by mouth, although some can also be given as an injection. Two doses (morning and evening) are generally recommended to control both daytime and nighttime symptoms. Doctors sometimes recommend a single dose, taken at bedtime, for people who have difficulty remembering to take their medicines.
How It Works
H2 blockers reduce the production of stomach acid. This makes the stomach juices less acidic so that any stomach juice that gets into the esophagus is less irritating. This relieves symptoms and allows the esophagus to heal.
Why It Is Used
H2 blockers are used to treat the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). They may be prescribed for your symptoms without any diagnostic testing if your symptoms point to GERD.
How Well It Works
All of the H2 blockers in this class are about equally effective.
H2 blockers also work to help symptoms of GERD. But the number of people who take H2 blockers and who have no GERD symptoms is usually less than 5 out of 10 people. That means that of the people taking H2 blockers, more than 5 out of 10 still have some GERD symptoms.2
H2 blockers have been in use since the late 1960s. H2 blockers are well studied and are considered very safe.
Minimal side effects occur with use of H2 blockers. Side effects may include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Depending on how bad your symptoms are, medicines may need to be taken every day or only now and then when GERD symptoms occur. Long-term—often lifelong—drug treatment is usually needed for GERD symptoms that are more severe, because symptoms tend to return when drug treatment is stopped.
Treatment of inflammation in the esophagus (esophagitis) with H2 blockers usually lasts 8 to 12 weeks. If H2 blockers do not help relieve the symptoms, the doctor may recommend using a proton pump inhibitor (acid blocker) instead.
Lifestyle changes and antacids are usually tried first to treat pregnant women who have GERD. If you are pregnant and think you need something stronger, ranitidine and cimetidine are the H2 blockers that have been studied the most. They seem to be safe during pregnancy. It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor about what medicines are safe to use during pregnancy.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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