In the beginning, Andrew's heartburn symptoms seemed mild enough to get by without much help.
"It felt like a bit of acid or a burning sensation was coming up my esophagus," relates the 49-year-old safety officer. "It was nothing major."
But over time, things changed. Andrew's symptoms intensified and he recognized he was dealing with a medical condition that required action. A growing number of foods fuelled more extreme burning sensations, and when Andrew burped, he started to notice an after-taste. So, like many other people in similar shoes, Andrew decided to take over-the-counter medications.
Initially, they appeared to be working. "I'd be fine within two minutes," he says. "But over about two more years, I noticed that I had to take more over-the-counter pills more frequently and it just seemed that the further I got on in age, I had to take more and more pills."
With lasting relief still elusive following years of over-the-counter medications, Andrew paid a visit to his family physician for some medical advice.
The doctor gave him a three-month prescription for esomeprazole, a medication that works by reducing the amount of acid in the stomach. It's also used to relieve discomfort and symptoms to damaged areas, such as the esophagus.
"Within two days, I didn't have heartburn problems," Andrew says. "So I took it for three months and then I stopped."
Stopping wasn't a good move. Without the medication, Andrew was back to where he started. In fact, the symptoms became even more cumbersome, affecting his quality of life.
Andrew was now waking up in the middle of the night, coughing as he felt the burning sensation in the back of his throat. "My sleep habits were definitely a problem," he explains. "I was a little more stressed because of the lack of sleep and I couldn't have the foods I loved."
Andrew returned to the doctor's office and was told frankly by his physician that "it looks like esomeprazole is the way to go."
In concert with taking esomeprazole, Andrew made certain lifestyle changes, such as cutting back on alcohol, steering clear of particular problem foods, elevating his bed slightly to help with sleep, and not eating for four to five hours before going to sleep.
The combination of esomeprazole and lifestyle adjustments made a world of difference. Andrew's symptoms went away and his life got back to normal.
"I didn't have any heartburn or indigestion and esomeprazole allowed me to eat foods I wouldn't normally be able to eat, like bananas or tomatoes. It worked very well for me and I was glad I was taking it."
The treatment options Andrew and his doctor decided upon may not be appropriate for every person with heartburn. But Andrew's story shows that it's important to take action if you continue to experience symptoms - while keeping risks and benefits in mind when deciding on a treatment.
Esomeprazole is an example of a medication that belongs to a group of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs for short. These medications work by reducing the production of acid in the stomach. PPIs are generally well tolerated, although mild and infrequent side effects can include headache, stomach upset, changes in bowel movements, and nausea.
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