Over the last several years more and more medications have become available over the counter without needing a prescription from a doctor. Now with a Google search and a stroll down a couple of aisles at the drugstore, you can treat almost any symptom. When does it become dangerous for people to continually self-medicate to treat the symptoms without knowing the cause? Or when do the potential side effects from these OTC drugs come into account?

A group of acid reflux medications called proton pump inhibitors approved by the FDA in the 1980s decrease the amount of acid production in the stomach for treatment of chronic heartburn. Chronic heartburn is defined as heartburn more than two days a week or persistent after the use of antacids. Long term use of PPIs has been linked to higher risks of heart disease, decreased calcium absorption (leading to osteoporosis or fractures), and infections like pneumonia. But now new studies show a link between PPI usage and chronic kidney disease. With chronic kidney disease, the kidneys slowly lose the ability to clean the blood causing waste and fluid build up in the body. As kidney disease worsens, the treatment options include kidney dialysis or kidney transplant. Talk with your doctor if you have been taking a PPI long term and are experiencing any urinary changes or problems.

Because of the possible long term side effects, it is important to discuss all OTC medications you take with your physician. It’s also important to know the risks versus benefits of taking OTC medications or prescription PPIs to treat reflux. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to call GI Associates today. We are here to help with any issues you may have.

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