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Medicine check-ups for older adults

Heartburn medicines

Heartburn (also called acid reflux) is common in older adults. It happens when food and stomach contents keep backing up into the esophagus (the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach). This causes discomfort and over time, may damage the lining of the esophagus. Some common causes of heartburn are:

  • certain medicines
  • stress
  • alcohol, caffeine, and certain foods
  • infection
  • stomach ulcers
  • having a higher weight

The best way to manage heartburn is to find out what’s causing it. If dealing with the likely cause of heartburn doesn’t help, you may need to talk more with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. Let your healthcare provider know if you have chest pain, nausea or vomiting, trouble swallowing, low iron, weight loss, or a sour taste in your mouth.

Common heartburn medicines include:

Type of medicine Name of medicine
proton pump inhibitors pantoprazole (Pantoloc, Tecta)
rabeprazole (Pariet)
esomeprazole (Nexium)
dexlansoprazole (Dexilant)
lansoprazole (Prevacid)
H2 blockers raniditine (Zantac)
famotidine (Pepcid)
antacids TUMS
Diovol
Pepto-Bismol

Benefits

Heartburn medicines can lessen symptoms and heal stomach ulcers. Your healthcare provider may prescribe heartburn medicines each day for 4 to 8 weeks. Some medicines, like antacids, may help to manage heartburn if you only get it once in a while.

Risks

In most cases, it’s best not to use heartburn medicines longer than 4 to 8 weeks because there are risks and side effects. These include:

  • headache
  • diarrhea
  • infection of the intestine (such as C. difficile colitis)
  • not being able to absorb important nutrients well, such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and magnesium
  • bone fractures

When you stop taking a proton pump inhibitor, it may cause heartburn to come back (called rebound heartburn).

Do you need a medicine check-up?

It’s important to regularly talk to your healthcare provider and pharmacist about your medicines. Ask if you still need to take all of your medicines or if you can take a lower dose.

More information

For more information about heartburn medicines, search the name of the medicine in the medication database.



Current as of: March 5, 2020

Author: Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network