1. What is omeprazole?
Omeprazole is a medication used to reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. It’s used to treat indigestion, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome.
It comes in the form of tablets, capsules, or as a liquid. It’s available on prescription, but you can also buy the lowest strength (10mg) over the counter at pharmacies.
Omeprazole is the generic name for the medication. It is commonly sold under the brand names Prilosec, Losec, and Zegerid, amongst others.
2. How does omeprazole work? Is it an antacid?
Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). This means that it works by blocking the enzymes that produce acid in your stomach.
It is not an antacid – antacids work by neutralizing stomach acid after it has been produced. PPIs prevent stomach acid from being produced in the first place.
3. What’s the difference between omeprazole and ranitidine (Zantac)?
Omeprazole and ranitidine are both used to reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach. However, they work in different ways.
Ranitidine (commonly sold under the brand name Zantac) is from an older class of drugs called histamine antagonists or H2-blockers. Histamine is a naturally-occurring chemical which encourages your stomach to produce acid, which is necessary for digesting food. Ranitidine and other histamine antagonists work by blocking histamine so that your stomach produces less acid. Other drugs in this class include cimetidine (Tagamet), nizatidine (Axid), and famotidine (Pepcid), which work in the same way as ranitidine to reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach.
Omeprazole is from a newer class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which work by blocking the enzyme which produces acid in your stomach. They are more effective than H2-blockers and are usually prescribed first. H2-blockers are generally only prescribed if you don’t get on well with PPIs, for example, because of side effects. Other drugs in this class include lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Protonix), and esomeprazole (Nexium). They work in the same way as omeprazole to reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach.
4. Can I get omeprazole over the counter?
You can get the lowest-strength 10mg tablets or capsules of omeprazole over the counter at a pharmacy. For anything stronger, you will need to see your doctor for a prescription.
If you are self-treating with omeprazole (i.e. not under the advice of a doctor), don’t take omeprazole for longer than two weeks without seeing a doctor.
5. How long does it take for omeprazole to work?
Omeprazole usually starts to work after 2 to 3 days, but it may take 4 weeks for it to reach its full effect, so you might continue to experience acid symptoms for a few weeks after starting omeprazole.
Talk to your doctor if you are self-treating with omeprazole and don’t feel better after two weeks.
6. When is the best time to take omeprazole?
Most people take their omeprazole first thing in the morning. You can take it with or without food.
If you take omeprazole twice a day, take it once in the morning and once in the evening.
7. Can I take omeprazole on an empty stomach? Or must I take it with food or after food?
Omeprazole doesn’t upset the stomach, so it’s up to you to decide whether to take it on an empty stomach or with or after food. However, if omeprazole makes you feel nauseous, you may find it helpful to take it with or after food.
8. I’m experiencing side effects on omeprazole. What ways are there to try to cope with them?
Some people who take omeprazole experience side effects while taking this medication. These side effects are usually mild and go away after you stop taking omeprazole.
Here are some common side effects and ways to cope with them:
- Headache – rest and drink plenty of water. If you feel it’s necessary, you can ask a pharmacist to recommend a painkiller. Talk to your doctor if your headaches last for more than a week or if they become severe.
- Diarrhea or vomiting – make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, or an oral rehydration solution from a pharmacy.
- Nausea – take omeprazole with or after food, and try to avoid rich or spicy food.
- Stomach pain
- Constipation – try to eat more high-fiber foods and drink plenty of water.
- Gas – avoid foods that cause gas, such as beans and onions.
- Dizziness – when you feel a bout of dizziness coming on, find somewhere to sit down and rest, and wait for it to pass.
However, some side effects are serious, and you must talk to a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Joint pain together with a red skin rash, particularly in areas of skin exposed to the sun such as your arms, cheeks, and nose – these are possible signs of subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus, a rare condition which can occur years after taking omeprazole
- Yellow skin, dark urine, and tiredness – these are possible signs of liver problems
- Skin blistering and peeling, and/or blisters and bleeding in your eyes, nose, mouth, lips, and genitals – these are possible signs of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) or toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).
It is also important to be aware of the signs of an allergic reaction. If you experience an allergic reaction to omeprazole, you must see a doctor immediately.
- Signs of a serious allergic reaction include:
- Skin rash – for example itchy, red, or swollen skin
- Tightness in the chest or throat
- Trouble breathing or talking
- Swollen mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat
9. Are there any long term side effects of taking omeprazole?
There is an increased risk of low magnesium in your blood if you take omeprazole for more than three months. Signs of low magnesium include dizziness, confusion, tiredness, muscle twitches, feeling shaky, and an irregular heartbeat. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
There may be an increased risk of certain side effects if you take omeprazole for more than one year. These include bone fractures, gut infections, and vitamin B12 deficiency. Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include feeling tired, mouth ulcers, a sore and red tongue, and feeling pins and needles. If you take omeprazole for more than a year, your doctor will monitor your health for these issues.
10. I think I’ve overdosed on omeprazole. What should I do?
If you take too much omeprazole, you may experience signs of overdose such as dizziness, tiredness, double vision, slurred speech, diarrhea, or fainting. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must see a doctor immediately.
11. I would like to stop taking omeprazole. Will I experience withdrawal?
It’s usually safe to simply stop taking omeprazole without having to wean yourself off slowly.
However, if you have been taking omeprazole for a long time, talk to your doctor for advice on how to wean yourself off it. You will probably need to gradually reduce your dose over time, rather than suddenly stopping omeprazole, which may cause your stomach to produce a lot more acid.
12. Can I drink alcohol while taking omeprazole?
Yes, you can. It’s safe to drink alcohol while on omeprazole. However, it may be a good idea to cut back on alcohol anyway, because alcohol can cause your stomach to produce more acid, which may make your symptoms worse.
13. Can I take omeprazole during pregnancy?
It is usually safe to use omeprazole during pregnancy, but you should always talk to your doctor if you are thinking about taking any medications while pregnant or breastfeeding.
However, if you are pregnant, it is better to first try to treat your indigestion using other methods rather than medication. Talk to your doctor for advice on how to do this. They may suggest lifestyle changes such as eating small meals more frequently, avoiding rich or spicy food, and raising the head of your bed. If these methods don’t work, they may then recommend omeprazole or another medication.
14. Can I take omeprazole while breastfeeding?
This is something that you must discuss with your doctor.
Omeprazole is generally considered safe to use while breastfeeding if your baby is healthy. It only passes into the breast milk in very small amounts which are unlikely to be harmful to the baby. However, you should always talk to your doctor first about any medications that you plan to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. If your baby is premature or has any health problems, it is particularly important to check with your doctor first before taking any medications, including omeprazole.
15. Can I take omeprazole together with an antacid like Tums or Gaviscon?
Yes, but you must leave a gap of 2 hours between taking omeprazole and taking the antacid.
16. Can I take painkillers like paracetamol, ibuprofen, or naproxen while on omeprazole?
It is generally safe to take paracetamol, ibuprofen, or naproxen while on omeprazole. However, it is best to ask a doctor or pharmacist to recommend a painkiller which is safe for you to take.
17. Can I take omeprazole together with warfarin?
Don’t take omeprazole together with warfarin without speaking to a doctor first. This is because omeprazole can increase the levels of warfarin in your body, leading to an increased risk of bleeding. If your doctor feels it is necessary for you to take omeprazole and warfarin at the same time, they may adjust your warfarin dose and monitor you regularly.
18. Can I take omeprazole while on clopidogrel?
Clopidogrel is an antiplatelet (blood thinner) medication sold under the brand name Plavix. It is a very commonly prescribed drug and is used to prevent blood clots.
If you are currently taking clopidogrel, don’t take omeprazole without talking to a doctor first. This is because omeprazole can interfere with how clopidogrel works, making it much less effective at preventing blood clots.
If you experience acid symptoms such as indigestion or heartburn while on clopidogrel, you can take an antacid such as Gaviscon or Tums. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist for advice on what heartburn medications you can take with clopidogrel.
19. Can I take omeprazole together with Adderall?
Talk to your doctor first if you think you may need to take omeprazole together with Adderall. This is because Adderall contains the active ingredient amphetamine, and omeprazole can interact with amphetamine and affect the onset of the effects of Adderall. It is always best to check with a doctor or pharmacist if you take multiple medications at the same time.
20. Can I take omeprazole together with citalopram?
It can be dangerous to take omeprazole together with citalopram, because omeprazole may prevent citalopram from being broken down by the body, leading to an increased amount of “active” citalopram circulating in your body. This can cause increased side effects. Talk to your doctor if you think you may need to take omeprazole while also taking citalopram.
21. Can I take omeprazole while on diazepam?
Diazepam (commonly sold under the brand name Valium) is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat anxiety, amongst other conditions.
Don’t take omeprazole together with diazepam without talking to a doctor first. This is because omeprazole can increase the amount of diazepam in your body, and this can lead to increased side effects such as drowsiness and trouble breathing. If your doctor agrees that you need to take both omeprazole and diazepam, they may adjust your dose or monitor you more frequently.
22. Does omeprazole increase the risk of developing kidney disease?
Some studies have suggested that taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole may lead to an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease in patients who had normal kidney function before starting omeprazole. However, the research is still unclear and it has not been proven that PPIs actually cause kidney disease. It is also not known if omeprazole can make existing kidney disease worse. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about how omeprazole may affect your health.
23. Does omeprazole increase the risk of developing liver disease?
Some studies have suggested that there may be a link between taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole and developing chronic liver disease. However, it is relatively rare to develop liver problems as a side effect of taking omeprazole.
Talk to your doctor if you have liver problems prior to starting omeprazole, or if you start to experience symptoms of liver disease, such as yellow skin, dark urine, and tiredness while taking omeprazole.
24. Does omeprazole increase the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?
It is unclear whether taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole may increase the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There is some limited evidence that there may be a link between PPIs and these diseases, but some other studies have suggested that PPIs may even be linked to a reduced risk of developing these diseases.
In summary, there is no clear link between omeprazole and dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and you should continue to take omeprazole as directed by your doctor.
The content on this page is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, you should talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional. This is particularly important if you are taking multiple medications or have any existing medical conditions.
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