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What are the Most Common Uses for Aluminum Hydroxide?

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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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Aluminum hydroxide is a powerful base most commonly used to treat hyperacidity. Doses of the compound can counteract high levels of acid in the digestive tract, significantly reducing the patient's discomfort. Several commercial antacid products use aluminum hydroxide as their main active ingredient. The base is also used to manage phosphorus levels in patients with kidney disease. In addition, the compound is combined with chlorine to produce aluminum hydroxychloride, an effective antiperspirant. Non-medical uses of aluminum hydroxide include mordant for dyeing, waterproofing, and glass-making.

As an antacid, aluminum hydroxide aids in treating conditions caused by an abundance of acids in the digestive tract, including stomach ulcers, acid reflux, and indigestion. The medication is also effective as a heartburn treatment. As a base, the compound can neutralize the excess acids in the patient's digestive tract, with the chemical reaction producing salts that can easily be passed out of the system. The treatment is taken orally, either in a liquid suspension or in pill form. General discomfort from hyperacidity usually dissipates within an hour of medication, although some cases require more doses over time.

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Aluminum hydroxide is also used as a phosphate binder among individuals suffering from poor kidney function. The compound binds with the phosphorus in the digestive tract, turning it into a substance that cannot be absorbed into the blood stream. The excess phosphorus is later passed in the patient's stool. The popularity of aluminum hydroxide as a phosphate binder is diminishing, however, as some studies show that an overabundance of aluminum in the system might deteriorate bone.

Taking aluminum hydroxide can produce negative side effects, the most common among which is constipation. Many pharmaceutical companies, however, combine laxatives into the formulation to counteract this effect. Other side effects include hemorrhoids, joint pains, and an unusual loss of appetite. Certain individuals might also be allergic to the compound and suffer from hives and rashes after taking the medication. Side effects that require immediate medical attention include rectal bleeding or a strong black discoloration in the patient's feces.

Before taking the medication, patients are advised to consult their doctors about substances that might possibly interact with aluminum hydroxide. Other medications such as tetracycline and levothyroxine can react poorly to the compound and result in adverse effects. Alcohol and illegal substances can also cause complications when reacting to the medication. Experts also recommend consulting a doctor before treating children with aluminum hydroxide, as the medication might be too powerful for their sensitive systems.

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