Heartburn and ulcers can be a real punch to the gut - and pain and nausea are common. The active ingredient Omeprazole can bring some relief here. The stomach protecting drug reduces the amount of stomach acid and thus helps to prevent unpleasant swallowing or irritated stomach lining. The drug is available as tablets, capsules and infusion. Up to a dose of 20 mg, Omeprazole is available without a prescription and can be used for self-medication against heartburn.
When is Omeprazole used?
Among other things, Omeprazole helps to reduce rising gastric acidity in the esophagus. The drug is also used preventively in the diagnosis of reflux disease. Diseases that fall into this area are:
- Heartburn and acid regurgitation
- Reflux disease (heartburn with inflamed esophagus)
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
Detecting reflux disease
With reflux disease (reflux oesophagitis), gastric fluid enters the esophagus because the sphincter of the stomach entrance does not close properly. This can inflame the esophagus and should be examined by a doctor. Typical symptoms are:
- Acid regurgitation
- Pressure in the upper abdomen
- Burning behind the breastbone
- Sore throat
- Nausea / vomiting
Omeprazole is also used to treat stomach and intestinal ulcers caused by inflamed gastric mucosa. Medications that cause ulcers in the digestive tract include pain relievers (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) in particular. If these ulcers have occurred before, Omeprazole can be used preventively to prevent them from growing again. Diseases in this area include in particular:
- Stomach ulcers
- Duodenal ulcers
- Digestive ulcers caused by medication
- Helicobacter pylori bacteria (in combination with antibiotics)
Detecting stomach ulcers
Inflammation and ulcers in the gastrointestinal area cause persistent pain and should be examined by a doctor. Typical symptoms are:
- Loss in weight
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Abdominal pain during or after eating
How does Omeprazole work?
Stomach acid is a body fluid that is produced in the stomach. It provides the prerequisites for good digestion and helps the enzymes to break down the food you eat. At the same time, it renders pathogens that occur in food harmless. Gastric acid contains hydrochloric acid and is therefore very acidic - the stomach protects itself from being attacked by the acid with a thick layer of mucus. A healthy body produces about two to three liters of gastric acid every day, which are released by so-called proton pumps.
With heartburn, stomach ulcers or inflammation, the body is irritated by the stomach acid. The active ingredient Omeprazole prevents too much stomach acid from being released to the stomach - and is therefore referred to as a proton pump inhibitor. Irritated gastric mucous membranes and the esophagus are spared from the acidic stomach acid and can recover. Unpleasant symptoms subside and can be prevented.
If the body is also affected by a Helicobacter pylori infection, which often causes stomach ulcers, Omeprazole can fight the bacteria together with antibiotics.
Why is Omeprazole gastro-resistant?
Stomach acid is very aggressive and would also break down the active ingredient Omeprazole if it came into direct contact with it. To get around this, the drug is takens as an infusion or orally as tablets or capsules: The capsule protects the active ingredient from stomach acid and is transported further into the small intestine. Only there is the capsule or tablet completely broken down. The intestinal cells absorb the active ingredient and transport it into the gastric mucosa via the bloodstream. The active ingredient begins to work here and prevents the proton pumps from delivering too much gastric acid into the stomach. The enteric-coated capsule ultimately helps to protect the active ingredient Omeprazole from the aggressive gastric acid and to transport it to its place of action.
**Omeprazole or Pantoprazole?** Both Omeprazole and Pantoprazole inhibit stomach acid. The two substances work in the same way in the body and are used against the same ailments. However, the body's metabolism processes them differently so they must be **dosed differently**. Pantoprazole is a so-called **analog preparation** - That is, it is a drug that has only a slightly different effect in therapy than Omeprazole.
What are the side effects of Omeprazole?
Taking Omeprazole may lead to side effects. Also interactions with other medications are possible - it is therefore important to read the package insert carefully before taking it and to speak to the doctor if you have any illnesses or are taking other medications. Common side effects include:
- Digestive problems (diarrhea, constipation, flatulence)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep disorders
The drug is suspected of causing diseases such osteoporosis, dementia and liver disease with prolonged use. With long-term use, you should discuss possible risks and precautionary measures with the doctor beforehand. During pregnancy you should only take Omeprazole under the supervision of a doctor - usually the doctor will only prescribe the medication if they see no other treatment option.
How is Omeprazole taken?
Omeprazole is in most cases swallowed in tablet or capsule form; in some cases the active ingredient can also be administered by infusion. The active ingredient should, if possible be taken on an empty stomach about 30 minutes before a meal.
If Omeprazole is used to fight heartburn, it is recommended you take one 20 mg tablet or capsule once a day. As soon as the symptoms have completely subsided - at the latest after 14 days - the treatment is stopped. During this period, the symptoms should have improved considerably or should have subsided completely. If that does not happen, it is advisable to see a doctor and discuss how to proceed and investigate the causes. In most cases, the symptoms can be combated with another two-week treatment.
If the patient has a stomach ulcer or if the pathogen Helicobacter pylori is present, the daily dose can be 60 mg or 80 mg and the medication can be taken over a longer period of time. However, this only happens on instructions and under the supervision of a doctor.
How do you stop taking Omeprazole?
If Omeprazole is taken as self-medication for 14 days, it can simply be stopped at the end of the two weeks - slow dosage reduction is not necessary.
**Keep in mind!** The tablet should **never be halved** and be broken into two parts: The capsule is important to protect the active ingredient from stomach acid and must not be damaged!
If the patient takes the active ingredient for a longer period of time, it may be lead to the so-called acid-rebound effect. In this case, the symptoms worsen before they subside and disappear completely. In order to keep the symptoms low during this time, it is worth protecting the stomach and avoiding stress. You should also do without alcohol and foods such as coffee and chocolate.
How is Omeprazole available?
Omeprazole can be purchased without a prescription in 10 mg or 20 mg form. Packs of 20 mg and 14 tablets or capsules are commercially available. The drug, however, must be purchased in a pharmacy.** So you can only buy it in a pharmacy or mail order pharmacy. Dosages of 40 mg or higher are only available with a prescription. The price depends on the size of the pack and is usually 30 to 50 cents per capsule or tablet. Omeprazole is also available as an **infusion solution.
Barthel, J.S., 1993. Amoxicillin and Omeprazole to eradicate Helicobacter pylori. ACP Journal Club, 119(1), pp.10-10. Downloaded on 08.08.2016 from: http://acpjc.acponline.org/Content/119/1/issue/ACPJC-1993-119-1-010.htm
Lind, T., Cederberg, C.H.R.I.S.T.E.R., Ekenved, G.U.N.N.A.R., Haglund, U. and Olbe, L., 1983. Effect of omeprazole--a gastric proton pump inhibitor--on pentagastrin stimulated acid secretion in man. Gut, 24(4), pp.270-276. Downloaded on 08.08.2016 from: http://gut.bmj.com/content/gutjnl/24/4/270.full.pdf