Recently there has been a lot of attention in the media linking the use of Protein Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) with dementia. PPIs make up a group of medications used to treat chronic reflux and are widely used across the world, so it is difficult for the media to pass up on a sensational headline. Let’s look at the facts. The study, done in Germany, by its nature cannot and does not prove that the use of PPIs cause dementia. It can only show how many elderly patients who use the medications also have dementia. The problem is that the study does not adjust for other health issues, like diabetes or heart disease, or for lifestyle factors, such as smoking. All of these have been linked with developing dementia. Also, many elderly patients are on multiple medications, other than the PPIs, which is known as polypharmacy. Polypharmacy has been associated with “significant” risk of developing dementia.

So what is the take away? Because of this study and others that also link PPIs with other health concerns, there will need to be much more research into the matter. In the meantime, talk to your doctor. Ask if you are on the minimum dose necessary for your symptoms. It is also important to understand that chronic reflux is dangerous to leave untreated. Scarring and permanent damage can develop over time from stomach acid coming in contact with the sensitive tissue in the esophagus. Rarely, this can lead to cancer development. Do not stop taking your medications without discussing it with a gastroenterologist.

If you are taking over the counter PPIs without being under a doctor’s care, make an appointment today with a gastroenterologist at GI Associates.

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