Omeprazole is a medication that is generally used to treat conditions where excess acid secretion in the stomach takes place (such as gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcer).
It is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) that reduces acid production in your stomach. In this article, we are going to look at the uses & side effects of omeprazole and find out whether this commonly prescribed medication can cause cancer.
1. What is omeprazole prescribed for?
Omeprazole can be prescribed for a variety of conditions. Here is a list of reasons why doctors prescribe omeprazole to their patients.
1.1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Omeprazole is used short-term for treating Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD, as this medicine manages symptoms and promotes healing of the esophagus or the food pipe. Doctors generally prescribe omeprazole for a short duration of about 4 to 8 weeks for this common condition. The duration might be longer for severe or chronic GERD.
Here are some symptoms of GERD:
- Heartburn (usually after eating and might get worse at night or when you lie down)
- Backwash or regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Pain in your chest or the upper abdomen
- Trouble swallowing, known as dysphagia
- The sensation of the presence of a lump in your throat
1.2. Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcers refer to open sores that develop on the stomach’s inner lining and the small intestine’s upper portion. The medication omeprazole helps in promoting the healing of these ulcers. The typical duration doctors prescribe omeprazole for in case of peptic ulcers is 4 to 8 weeks but it may be prolonged or maintenance therapy may be recommended in order to prevent ulcer recurrence.
Peptic ulcers may cause symptoms of indigestion. Here are some symptoms that are indicative of peptic ulcer:
- Pain or discomfort in your upper abdomen (anywhere between the breastbone and the belly button)
- Feeling full too soon while you are eating a meal and feeling uncomfortably full after you have eaten it
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Burping or Belching
1.3. Erosive Esophagitis
This condition is characterized by inflammation of the oesophagus and areas of erosion or wearing away of its lining. Omeprazole is prescribed to promote healing in patients with this condition and is generally defined for a short duration, i.e., about 4 to 8 weeks.
Symptoms of erosive esophagitis include sore throat, feeling of something being stuck in your throat, sores in the mouth, difficulty or pain while swallowing, and nausea and vomiting.
1.4. Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
This is a rare digestive disorder that results in excess production of gastric acid, which can cause peptic ulcers in your stomach and intestine. For treatment of this condition, the medication omeprazole is used for a longer period and the dosage of use will be adjusted according to patients’ individual needs.
Symptoms of this digestive disorder are abdominal pain, loss of weight, diarrhea, and nausea and vomiting.
1.5. Helicobacter pylori Infection
H. pylori is a kind of bacteria that infects one’s stomach and is passed from person to person through direct contact with saliva, vomit, or stool. These bacteria can cause open sores on your digestive tract, gastritis, or peptic ulcer. Omeprazole is used as part of combination therapy to alleviate helicobacter pylori in people with peptic ulcers. The duration for which it is prescribed is typically around 10 to 14 days.
2. What are the side effects of omeprazole?
Just like all other medications, omeprazole also may cause certain side effects. Common side effects include constipation, gas, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and headache. If these symptoms stay for a long time or are quite severe, consult a doctor. Apart from these, omeprazole may cause some serious side effects.
These include blisters, peeling or bleeding skin, sores on lips or mouth (in some cases also genitals), uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body, dizziness, seizures, rashes on the skin, blood in urine, and joint pain, to mention a few. As soon as these symptoms show, seek medical help from a professional.
People who take omeprazole or other proton pump inhibitors may be more susceptible to wrist, hips, and spine fractures, and may also develop fundic gland polyps, which is a type of growth that occurs on the stomach lining. People who take high doses of proton pump inhibitors or take them for more than a year are the ones highest at risk. It would help if you talked to your doctor about this medication’s associated risks.
3. Proper use of omeprazole
Use the medicine as instructed by your doctor. It is best to consult a professional before you start taking the medicine and ensure you do not use it excessively or more frequently than necessary. But if you are using the medication without a prescription, follow the instructions on the label. Omeprazole comes with a medication guide; following that properly will give you the desired results.
Omeprazole capsules should be taken before a meal, preferably in the morning. Omeprazole tablets, on the other hand, can be taken with food as well as an empty stomach. Omeprazole powder for oral suspension should be taken on an empty stomach at least 1 hour before you eat a heavy meal.
The capsules and tablet forms of this medication should be swallowed whole. Please do not crush or chew omeprazole tablets or capsules, and do not open the capsules.
3.1. Way to use powder for oral suspension
Take a small cup; pour two tablespoons of water in it and empty the powder packet into it. Please ensure you do not use any other liquid or food to take this medication. Stir the solution well and drink it up immediately. Then refill the cup with water and drink up.
3.2. Way to use delayed-release oral suspension
Take a container and pour about 5ml water into it. Empty the 2.5 milligrams (mg) packet of powder into it and stir it. In the case of a 10 mg packet of powder, empty it into a container containing 15 mL of water. Leave the solution for around 2-3 minutes to thicken, stir well and drink up within 30 minutes. Please do not use any other liquid or food to consume this medication. After drinking the solution, if any medicine remains in the container, refill it with water and drink it up.
4. Does omeprazole cause cancer?
Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors or PPIs, for instance, omeprazole has been linked to an increased risk of gastric cancer or stomach cancer. Omeprazole is a gastric acid suppressant that may increase the risk of stomach cancer as this medication may cause atrophy or thinning of the stomach lining, elevated levels of the hormone gastrin, and an overgrowth of bacteria in your stomach.
5. Proper dosage of omeprazole
The prescribed dosage of omeprazole will depend on the condition, its severity, and the age group to which the patient belongs. Here is a list of doses of omeprazole typically prescribed for specific conditions and age groups.
5.1. For intestinal ulcers in adults
The dose is typically 20mg once daily. The prescribed frequency of use is generally around four weeks but some patients may require about 8 weeks.
5.2. For H. pylori infections, along with 2 antibiotics
The dosage typically prescribed is 20 mg twice daily, along with 2 antibiotics. The duration or frequency of use is about 10 days.
5.3. For H. pylori infections, along with 1 antibiotic
The dosage that your doctor will prescribe in this case is generally 40 mg once daily along with 1 antibiotic. The duration of use of omeprazole for this condition is about 14 days.
5.4. For stomach ulcers in adults
The dosage prescribed by the doctor in this case is typically 40 mg once daily, and the duration or frequency of use prescribed could be anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks.
5.5. For GERD in people aged 1 and above
The prescribed dose is 20mg once daily. The frequency of use, on the other hand, could be anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks.
5.6. To maintain healing of erosive esophagitis in people aged 1 and above
The dosage prescribed to maintain healing in patients with erosive esophagitis is 20mg once daily. The use of omeprazole for this purpose past the period of 12 months has not yet been explored by research studies.
5.7. For Zollinger–Ellison syndrome
The dosage generally prescribed in this case is 60mg once daily. Omeprazole is used for an extended period to treat this condition and there have been some cases where patients used omeprazole for more than five years for treatment of this syndrome.
6. Precautions to take before using omeprazole
Here is a list of precautions that you should take before using this medication.
- Please make sure you inform your doctor as well as the pharmacist in case you are allergic to omeprazole, dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (Aciphex), other medications you are on, or any of the ingredients present in the omeprazole product that you will be taking. Also, ask your pharmacist or check label for the list of ingredients present in the medication.
- Let your doctor know in case you are on rilpivirine; your doctor will probably ask you not to take omeprazole in this case.
- Inform your doctor in details about all the prescribed and/or non-prescribed medication, vitamins and nutritional supplements that you are on and/or plan to take. Please do not forget to mention anticoagulants (or blood thinners) such as warfarin (Jantoven), atazanavir (Reyataz, in Evotaz), cilostazol, citalopram (Celexa), clopidogrel (Plavix), cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune), dasatinib (Sprycel), diazepam (Valium, Valtoco), digoxin ( Lanoxin), disulfiram, diuretics (‘water pills’), erlotinib (Tarceva), iron supplements, itraconazole (Sporanox, Tolsura), ketoconazole, methotrexate (Trexall, Xatmep), mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept, Myfortic), nelfinavir (Viracept), nilotinib (Tasigna), phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek), rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), ritonavir (Norvir, in Kaletra), saquinavir (Invirase), tacrolimus (Astagraf, Envarsus, Prograf), & voriconazole (Vfend). In case you take these medications, the doctor may change your doses of omeprazole and/or closely monitor you and look out if you experience side effects.
- Tell your doctor about any herbal products you are taking, especially if you are taking St. John’s wort. Your doctor will most likely advise you not to take omeprazole with this product.
- Do not forget to mention to your doctor if you are of Asian descent; also, let your doctor know if you have or ever had low levels of calcium, potassium, or magnesium. Your doctor should also be informed if you have conditions such as hypoparathyroidism, osteoporiosis and autoimmune diseases.
7. Symptoms of overdose of this medication
In case of an overdose of omeprazole, immediate medical attention is required. Overdose of this medication may show several or a variety of symptoms, which are quite apparent as well as severe. Symptoms of an overdose of omeprazole include drowsiness, confusion, blurred vision, dry mouth, fast or pounding heartbeat, flushing or feeling of warmth, headache, and nausea and vomiting.
8. How to store omeprazole?
Storing a medication properly is essential in order to keep its effectiveness intact. Here is a list of general storage instructions for omeprazole.
8.1. Proper Temperature for Storage
Omeprazole should be stored at room temperature, i.e., around 20°C to 25°C or between 68°F to 77°F. Keep this medicine away from direct sunlight, heat, moisture, or extreme temperatures.
8.2. Proper Container for Storage
Keeping omeprazole stored in its original packaging or container would be best. Please ensure the container is airtight when closed to prevent contact with air and humidity.
8.3. Proper Location for Storage
Please store omeprazole in a dry place. Do not store it in your bathroom as the moisture in the environment may degrade the medication and not work as effectively as it should.
8.4. What to Avoid
Please do not crush or split omeprazole pills or capsules. Also, make sure you keep this medication away from the reach of children.
8.5. Check the Expiry Date
Always check the expiry date, which is mentioned on the packaging itself, before use. Please do not take the medication is has passed its expiry date.
To get the best results, you should use medications according to instructions provided by your doctor. If you choose to use omeprazole without a prescription, follow the instructions provided on the label or packaging of the medicine. Please do not overuse it or use it more frequently than prescribed. With the right use of this medication, you’ll get the best results for your specific condition.