GERD can be more than an annoyance. The frequent heartburn can greatly reduce your quality of life, not to mention increase your risk of esophageal ulcers and esophageal cancer. Once your doctor diagnoses you with GERD, they are likely to prescribe a medication to control it. One medication that is prescribed quite often is famotidine. Here are the basics that you should know if you've been prescribed famotidine.
Famotidine is what's known as an H2-receptor antagonist. In other words, it blocks the receptors in your stomach that notice that your stomach acid levels are low, which means your stomach produces less stomach acid after you've taken famotidine. With lower stomach acid levels, your stomach contents are less likely to splash back up into your esophagus, and if they do splash a little, they are less likely to cause heartburn and the other symptoms of GERD.
What Dose Do You Need to Take?
The dosage you are prescribed will depend on the severity of your GERD, your weight, and the symptoms you've reported to your doctor. You may be prescribed a different dose than a friend or family member. This does not mean your doctor made a mistake; take the medication as prescribed.
That being said, a common dose of famotidine is 40 mg, taken once a day in the evening. Some patients may be prescribed 20 mg to be taken twice a day, 12 hours apart. Occasionally, a higher dose may be prescribed. Your doctor may also start you off at a higher dose and then taper it down after a few weeks once your GERD symptoms are under closer control.
Are There Any Side Effects to Watch Out For?
Most patients do not experience any side effects when taking famotidine, but occasionally, the following minor side effects do occur:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry or flaking skin
- Trouble concentrating
- Snoring or heavy breathing
If you do experience any of these side effects, tell your doctor. They will work with you to decide whether or not it's worth continuing to take famotidine in spite of the side effects. If they ultimately decide to take you off famotidine, they may recommend an alternative GERD treatment — like cimetidine or nizatidine.
If you have any lingering questions or concerns about famotidine, reach out to your doctor or pharmacist. This is a common and effective treatment for GERD, and most patients tolerate it well.