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Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 25.04.2023 | 2 min read

Omeprazole is a medication used for the treatment of heartburn and stomach ulcers. It is also used to protect your stomach when taking medications that can increase your chance of stomach ulcers such as steroids (prednisolone, dexamethasone) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen, naproxen, 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. It is more common to find a similar product from the same family of medications called esomeprazole.

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 (ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac). 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 Oesophagitis, Barrett’s Oesophagus, and Zollinger Ellison syndrome. It can also 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 (PPI) 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, esomeprazole reduces the amount of acid secreted which means less acid can enter the oesophagus 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 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 diarrhoea.

Are there any side-effects?

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

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