Raise your hand if you want to physically rip your throat out of your neck after eating a spicy meal—or, honestly, after eating anything at all. I feel you; heartburn is no joke. Luckily, there’s a drug for that: omeprazole.
Omepra-what? You’ve probably heard of it as Prilosec or Zegerid—it’s one of the most popular treatments for chronic heartburn. You can buy it over the counter any time you’re having after-dinner indigestion, or if you’ve got a serious case of the burn, your doctor can prescribe you a stronger dosage.
The medicine’s a type of drug called a “proton-pump inhibitor.” Omeprazole works by blocking gastric acid secretion in your stomach which reduces heartburn, says Shilpa Ravella, M.D., a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.
It can also be used to treat ulcers and to help patients with tumors that result in high levels of gastric acid secretion, she adds. Omeprazole can be used for a short period like a few weeks, or for a longer time, including lifetime use.
But whether you’re just popping an OTC pill to help you get through a rough patch or you need to stay on it long-term, there are some side effects of omeprazole you should definitely know about.
You’re always running to the toilet.
While most people do just fine on the medication, diarrhea is one of the most common side effects of omeprazole, Ravella says. Loose stools are never fun, but they should clear up on their own. If you’re constantly tethered to the toilet, or if you see blood in your stool, it’s time to give your doctor a call.
You can clear a room with your farts.
If the answer to “What’s that smell?!” is you, it may be due to your medication, as gas is another common side effect, Ravella says. While it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, it’s probably not a big deal.
Your stomach is cramping and you feel nauseous.
Stomach pain and nausea are another relatively common side effect of omeprazole, Ravella says. This can be frustrating since the whole point of taking the meds is to help you eat with less pain, and if omeprazole is making your stomach hurt, you’re just ruining your meal in a different way.
One possible remedy is to try taking the pill just before your meal instead of first thing in the morning, according to the Mayo Clinic. If the pain is so much that it’s interfering with your ability to eat, then call your doctor right away.
Your head hurts so much, even Ellen annoys you.
Headaches are a potential side effect of many, many medications and antacids are no exception, Ravella says. If you feel like omperazole is causing or worsening your headaches, definitely let your doctor know as there are other medications you can try, she says.
You look sunburned, but haven’t been anywhere fun.
Got red, itchy, patchy skin? A small number of women may develop a rash as a side effect of omperazole, Ravella says. If this is you, you should alert your doctor right away as this may indicate an allergic reaction to the medication.
You fall asleep watching your favorite show every. single. night.
Exhaustion, fatigue, and drowsiness have all been reported from using omperazole. But if you’re feeling so wiped out not even an extra nap would help, it’s time to raise the red flag. Any time a side effect of a medication is seriously impacting your life, you need to let your doctor know, Ravella says.
You just feel crappy all the time.
Using proton-pump inhibitors, especially long term, can put you at a higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, a serious bacterial infection called clostridium difficile, bone fractures, and possibly kidney disease, Ravella says. These are very rare side effects, but you want to know the scary stuff too, right? “Because of these safety concerns, I try to keep patients on omeprazole for the least amount of time needed,” she says.
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