By Jane Shiyen Chou for Live Right Live Well
If you have frequent heartburn -- i.e., heartburn that occurs two or more days a week -- the FDA says it’s OK to try an over-the-counter proton pump inhibitor for up to two weeks, according to pharmacist Rosemary R. Berardi, who holds a doctorate in pharmacy and is a professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. But if you still have heartburn after two weeks of self-treatment, she says, “you need to see your doctor.”
Once you consult your doctor, he may tell you to continue taking a proton pump inhibitor for more than two weeks, and that’s OK. If your symptoms are related to GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a typical course of doctor-prescribed treatment is four to eight weeks, according to Berardi. If you also have esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), Berardi explains, you may need additional “maintenance therapy of up to a year or more to maintain healing and prevent symptoms from recurring. But most patients do not need therapy for more than a year,” she says.
Bottom line: Proton pump inhibitors are serious medications intended for people with frequent heartburn. Berardi says that people need to know that they “can’t take [proton pump inhibitors] forever and ever without consulting a physician.” But when taken appropriately and under a doctor’s care, proton pump inhibitors can provide safe and effective treatment “for as long as a patient needs it,” she says.
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