What Is Omeprazole Used For?

Omeprazole is an effective acid reflux treatment used to reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes, combatting symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion and stomach ulcers. However, there are certain conditions it is not suitable for.

In this article, we outline what omeprazole is, what you can and can’t use it for, how it works and how to use it correctly.

What Is Omeprazole?

Omeprazole is a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) drug that is used to treat acid reflux, also known as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Acid reflux is a common digestive condition with symptoms such as heartburn, which affects one in four adults in the UK.

The medicine works by blocking the proton pumps (enzymes which aid food digestion) in the stomach, reducing the amount of acid produced. It can relieve symptoms such as heartburn, bloating, bad breath and oesophagitis (inflammation of the food pipe). Omeprazole contains omeprazole as its only active ingredient.

What Is Omeprazole Used For?

Omeprazole treats conditions that are caused by your stomach producing too much acid. These conditions include:

  • Acid reflux (GORD): a condition which involves stomach acid leaking into the oesophagus (food pipe) and causing symptoms such as heartburn and bloating.
    Gastric or duodenal ulcers: ulcers that develop in the stomach or small intestine that is connected to the stomach.
  • Erosive oesophagus: damage to the oesophagus caused by stomach acid.
    Stomach infections related to Helicobacter pylori bacteria – this is a very common type of bacteria believed to be present in up to half the world’s population and can cause stomach ulcers.
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome: a rare disorder which involves a tumour (gastrinoma) developing in the pancreas or the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) and causes overproduction of stomach acid.

Omeprazole may be used as part of a combination therapy with another medication to treat these conditions. It is not used to treat any conditions other than those listed above.

Omeprazole for Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Omeprazole is able to reduce the amount of acid which your stomach produces to digest food. In doing this, it can prevent acid reflux and its related symptoms, including heartburn. The medicine is a PPI which works by inhibiting the H⁺/K⁺ ATPase proton pump in the stomach, reducing acid secretion.

Unless you have severe acid reflux symptoms, the normal adult dosage for acid reflux and heartburn is 20 mg once per day. It is usually taken first thing in the morning.

Omeprazole for Indigestion

Indigestion is a symptom of several digestive diseases. If your indigestion is caused by overproduction of stomach acid, omeprazole can help. Stomach acid can upset your stomach when it comes into contact with the mucosa; the digestive system’s protective lining.

Omeprazole suppresses your stomach acid production by preventing the H⁺/K⁺ ATPase proton pump from working properly.

The usual adult dose to treat indigestion is 10-20 mg, once per day. You’ll usually take omeprazole first thing in the morning.

Omeprazole for Stomach Ulcers

Omeprazole can be used to prevent and treat non-cancerous stomach and duodenal ulcers. Ulcers can be caused by the regular backflow of stomach acid which damages the oesophagus and stomach lining. A large proportion of people who have stomach ulcers will also have chronic acid reflux. Acid reflux can contribute to stomach ulcers, but ulcers don’t cause acid reflux.

As a PPI drug, omeprazole can help by reducing the amount of acid your stomach makes. In turn, this can help to prevent the development of stomach ulcers and reduce the discomfort caused by stomach ulcers that are irritated by acid.

The adult dosage for stomach ulcers, as well as for children from the ages of 16 to 17, is 40 mg once per day for four to eight weeks.

How Long Does Omeprazole Take To Work?

Omeprazole should begin working within two to three days, but it could take up to four weeks before you feel the full benefit of the medicine. Once omeprazole takes effect, you should feel an improvement in, or relief from, symptoms such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Sickness
  • Belching
  • Bad breath

If you have been taking omeprazole for two weeks and don’t feel better, inform your doctor, who can advise you on whether your dosage should be changed or if you should try an alternative medication for your acid reflux.

To understand more about omeprazole and how it compares to other acid reflux medication, please read our article on lansoprazole vs omeprazole.

Omeprazole Warnings

Omeprazole is usually only recommended for adults, but can sometimes be prescribed for children, with a doctor determining the child’s use and dosage. Omeprazole is only used to treat conditions related to the stomach and oesophagus, specifically reducing stomach acid production to relieve symptoms of:

  • Acid reflux stomach or duodenal ulcers
  • Erosive oesophagus
  • Stomach infections related to Helicobacter pylori bacteria
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Although using omeprazole during pregnancy is generally considered safe, you should always inform your doctor before taking it. Omeprazole is also best avoided while drinking alcohol as it can increase stomach acid production, even though alcohol doesn’t affect the way the medicine works.

What Can You Not Take With Omeprazole?

There are several drugs which may affect how omeprazole works, including:

  • Digoxin
  • Methotrexate
  • Clopidogrel
  • St John’s wort
  • Diuretics
  • Antibiotics

If you are taking any other medications, you should inform your doctor before using omeprazole.

How to Take Omeprazole

Omeprazole tablets are swallowed whole with water. You should never crush, split or chew the tablets. You can also be prescribed omeprazole in capsules or a liquid. When taken once per day, omeprazole is usually taken first thing in the morning, unless it is used to treat nocturnal symptoms.

Dosage can vary depending on the type of condition you have and the severity of your symptoms. The normal adult dose for the following conditions is:

  • Acid reflux, 20-40 mg per day
  • Stomach ulcers, 20 mg per day
  • Indigestion, 10-20 mg per day
  • Erosive oesophagus, 20 mg per day

For more information about how to take omeprazole, please refer to our article ‘When is the best time to take omeprazole for acid reflux?’.