Omeprazole is a medication that is used for the treatment of symptoms of conditions caused by too much stomach acid such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It can also help heal the damage to the esophagus that can be caused by these disorders. It is known by the brand names Prilosec and Zegerid, and is part of a class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors. Omeprazole has relatively few side effects, but use should be avoided by people with certain medical conditions.
The disorders treated using omeprazole all have a common factor of excessive stomach acid production. The acid causes severe discomfort in patients and can eat away parts of the stomach and esophagus, causing intense pain. GERD, for example, is a condition where the excess acid backs up into the esophagus; this can lead to erosive esophagitis which is swelling or ulcers in the esophagus. Omeprazole is also used to treat ulcers, which are sores in the lining of the stomach or intestine, or Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
Available under the brand names Prilosec and Zegerid, omeprazole comes in tablet, capsule, and powder form; instructions for use should be carefully followed. Prescription dosages are determined by a doctor depending on the patient's diagnosis. Lower dosage pills are available as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication.
Omeprazole belongs to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors, and its main action is to reduce the amount of stomach acid produced. It does this by blocking the enzyme in the stomach wall that produces the acid. Decreasing the amount of acid to normal levels gives the stomach and esophagus time to heal.
Most patients experience relatively few side effects from omeprazole. If any side effect is severe or does not subside, a medical professional should be notified as soon as possible. The most common side effects include gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, rash, dizziness, and headache. Other side effects that may occur rarely include muscle pain, weakness, water retention, leg cramps, abnormal heartbeat, and nervousness. If signs of an allergic reaction like swelling of the face or throat, difficulty breathing, or hives are present, immediate medical attention is required.
Omeprazole use is not recommended for nursing mothers, and it should only be used during pregnancy when the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Caution is needed if a patient has heart or liver disease. Complete medical history information, including any medications used, should be discussed with a doctor prior to beginning to use this drug.