The main difference between omeprazole and an antacid is their mechanism of action, or how they work. Both medications are used to treat the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which is commonly known as heartburn. In more severe cases the drug of choice may be omeprazole and an antacid may be recommended in the milder form of the condition. There are a number of different types and forms of antacids which may be known by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer, which are usually available as over-the-counter products. Omeprazole, too, may be known by different trade names in different countries and, in some, may be available by prescription only.
Heartburn is a commonly found clinical condition usually caused by the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. This may cause pain and discomfort, especially after eating; a sour taste in the mouth; and if left untreated, can progress to ulceration of the stomach. The initial treatment includes non-drug lifestyle changes such a change in diet but medical treatment may be needed. Usually an antacid will be recommended first, but if this is not sufficient to control the symptoms, other drugs such as ranitidine or omeprazole may be prescribed.
Antacids may consist of one or a combination of active ingredients including calcium carbonate, aluminum hydroxide and magnesium oxide. These relieve the symptoms of heartburn by binding to excess acid in the stomach. Omeprazole belongs to the class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and works by blocking the action of pumps in the cells of the lining of the stomach that usually secrete acid, thus lowering the levels of acid and relieving the symptoms of heartburn.
Omeprazole and an antacid differ in the side effects which may be experienced while taking them. Antacids may cause constipation or diarrhea, and those containing calcium salts may increase the amount of calcium in the blood. Omeprazole may cause headache, dizziness and disturbances of the gastrointestinal tract. Should adverse effects occur, they should be discussed with the doctor or pharmacist.
As with any medications, omeprazole and antacids may interact with other medications. Any prescribed, over-the-counter, complementary or homeopathic medicines being taken at the same time should be discussed with the doctor or pharmacist before starting treatment with either drug. Pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation should also be disclosed, as this may affect the decision of which, between omeprazole and an antacid, is the most suitable treatment.