If You've Been Taking Medications for a Long Time
Occasional heartburn is often relieved with a simple antacid. However, if you've been devouring antacids for weeks and not seeing results, then see a doctor. You may require a stronger prescription medication.
Prescription medications for heartburn aren't meant to be lifetime drugs, but many people treat them as such. Obviously, it's difficult to stop taking something that relieves possible pain. While heartburn medications are generally safe, doctors do warn that there are some long-term side effects that are cause for concern. Because the drugs decrease your gastric acid, your body absorbs far less calcium from your diet than normal. As a result, you could be at a higher risk for experiencing a bone fracture or osteoporosis. While the benefits of staying on the drugs outweigh the risks for frequent heartburn sufferers, those who suffer from heartburn only infrequently should eventually taper off their use.
If severe heartburn occurs in a relatively young person, who faces a lifetime of taking prescription medications, doctors may consider surgery in which the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the esophageal sphincter to strengthen it. Surgery is not recommended for everyone due to its invasive nature and due to studies that show that it might not be a permanent fix [source: Jaret].