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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Omeprazole is a medication used for the treatment of heartburn and stomach ulcers. It may also be used to protect your stomach when taking medications that can increase your chance of stomach ulcers, such as steroids (prednisolone, dexamethasone) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and diclofenac.

Omeprazole can come in many different formulations; however, tablets are the most common and can be purchased from a pharmacy, as well as shops and supermarkets. Other similar products from the same family of medications include esomeprazole and lansoprazole.

Doctor’s advice

Who is it for?

Omeprazole is used by adults over 18 to treat conditions such as heartburn and gastric ulcers but is also used to protect the stomach against developing stomach ulcers for patients on NSAIDs. When used for the treatment of a stomach ulcer, it may be combined with antibiotic medication as part of H. pylori eradication treatment.

Omeprazole is also used for other conditions where stomach acid suppression is necessary, such as esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. It can be prescribed for children to treat these conditions; however, this is done under the close supervision of a doctor.

How does it work?

Omeprazole belongs to a class of medication called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and works by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach. This acid is produced by types of cells in your stomach called parietal cells. These cells secrete stomach acid through proton pumps, which are necessary for the digestion of food. By inhibiting these proton pumps, PPIs reduce the amount of acid secreted, which means less acid can enter the esophagus and cause symptoms such as irritation, heartburn, and coughing. When used for gastric ulcers, the reduction in acid helps your stomach lining to heal.

Should anyone avoid taking it?

Like all medications, don’t take them if you have previously had an allergic reaction to the medication, if you have severe kidney or liver problems, or if you have other medications or medical conditions where you would normally discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist before starting something new.

If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should speak to your doctor before beginning treatment. This medication should also not be used if you have low magnesium, are at risk of developing osteoporosis, or have recently been suffering from diarrhea.

Are there any side effects?

As with any medication, some people are bound to get some unwanted side effects. Some of the common ones include headaches, nausea, vomiting, constipation, gas, and stomach pain. Omeprazole can reduce your absorption of certain vitamins, such as magnesium, and in some cases, cause diarrhea. If you develop symptoms of muscle cramps or severe diarrhea, it would be worth seeking some advice from your doctor.

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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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