Omeprazole Side Effects And How To Avoid Them
Omeprazole is an effective treatment for acid reflux. It is a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) drug which works by blocking the enzymes that aid food digestion. Omeprazole reduces acid reflux symptoms like heartburn, indigestion and stomach ulcers. But are there any side effects? And if so, how do you avoid them?
In this article, we provide you with all the information you need about the potential side effects of omeprazole and how to limit them.
Omeprazole Side Effects
Like any medication, omeprazole does have some potential side effects. However, many of these are uncommon or are not serious.
Common side effects which happen in more than 1 in 100 people include:
- Stomach pain
There are ways in which you can reduce the severity of these side effects, such as drinking lots of water to avoid headaches and taking omeprazole with food to avoid nausea. We’ll go into more detail on how to avoid omeprazole side effects further on in this article. If any of the side effects listed above bother you or worsen, inform your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects from omeprazole are rare and happen in fewer than 1 in 1,000 people. If you experience any of the following please contact a medical professional or call 999:
- Jaundice, which includes symptoms such as:
- Your skin becomes more yellow
- Your pee becomes darker
- Joint pain with a red skin rash
- Severe diarrhoea
How Long Do Omeprazole Side Effects Last?
As omeprazole has a half-life of less than one hour and is completely cleared by the body in just a few hours, side effects will subside during that time. However, some side effects may be felt in the stomach for a few days after you stop taking omeprazole.
If you are experiencing side effects due to combining omeprazole with antibiotics – including tongue discolouration or a change in taste – these are likely to resolve after you stop taking the antibiotics.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Omeprazole?
People who take omeprazole for longer than three months should understand that there are potential long-term side effects of the medication. Taking omeprazole over the long term may lower the magnesium levels in your blood, resulting in:
- Muscle twitches
- Heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
Taking omeprazole for over a year increases the risk of other side effects, including:
- Gut infections
- Bone fractures
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
Long-term users of omeprazole (those who take the medication for over a year) will attend regular check-ups with their doctor to see if they should continue using the medication. If you feel like omeprazole is no longer effective in treating your condition, speak to your doctor.
Does Omeprazole Cause Weight Gain?
Omeprazole may cause weight gain in a small portion of users. Significant weight gain has been linked to long-term use over several years, rather than short-term use. The reasons why omeprazole may cause you to gain weight aren’t fully understood. Long-term omeprazole treatment is only recommended for people with hypersecretion of stomach acid caused by rare medical conditions.
Less than 1% of people who take omeprazole experience weight gain.
Does Omeprazole Cause Cancer?
Some research suggests that taking PPIs such as omeprazole may marginally increase the risk of developing stomach acid and that this is more likely in users who have been taking the medication for more than three years. Further studies are required to be sure that omeprazole increases the chance of developing stomach cancer. Some studies also suggest PPIs may mask early symptoms of stomach cancer.
Is Omeprazole Safe?
Omeprazole is safe, provided you use it as recommended by your doctor or pharmacist, and follow the guidelines on the patient information leaflet that comes with the medication.
People with the following conditions may be suitable for omeprazole:
- Acid reflux, also known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), which involves stomach acid leaking
- into the food pipe (oesophagus)
- Gastric or duodenal ulcers
- Erosive oesophagus (when stomach acid causes damage to the oesophagus)
- Stomach infections related to the common bacteria Helicobacter pylori
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, a rare disorder characterised by a tumour (gastrinoma) developing in the
- pancreas or small intestine
You may not be suitable for omeprazole if you don’t have any of the conditions outlined above. Omeprazole is only prescribed for conditions related to the stomach or oesophagus.
There are also certain other drugs and supplements that you may not be able to take with omeprazole, as they affect how omeprazole works. These include:
- St John’s wort
What Are the Side Effects of Stopping Omeprazole?
Before you stop taking omeprazole, you should always speak to your doctor. It's important to reduce the dose gradually rather than stopping completely as symptoms may return due to your stomach suddenly producing a lot more acid.
Suddenly stopping omeprazole treatment could cause side effects. Rebound acid hypersecretion, as it is known, can result in:
- Stomach ache
- Weight change
How to Avoid Omeprazole Side Effects
We’ll conclude this article with some recommendations on how to avoid the side effects of omeprazole:
- Ensure your doctor knows about any medical conditions you have and any medications you are taking: allowing your doctor to assess your risk of side effects.
- Take the correct dosage: keeping to the daily dose of omeprazole you have been recommended, not taking double doses to make up for missed doses. This can lower the risk of side effects.
- Speak to your doctor before stopping omeprazole: this is because symptoms may return if you stop using the medication completely.
- Avoid long-term use: as this increases the chance of serious side effects.
- Avoid food and medication that increases stomach acid production: including spicy food, alcohol, caffeine and certain supplements.
- Take omeprazole before meals: to avoid side effects such as nausea and control gastric acidity. For more information, please read our article on the best time to take omeprazole.