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Ranitidine is an H2 or histamine blocker medication that decreases stomach acid. It is used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid indigestion, and ulcers; to repair stomach damage secondary to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use; and to control overproduction of gastric acid that occurs during Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Ranitidine is available in a lower dose over-the-counter variety in addition to its prescription form. If a patient has demonstrated an allergy to another histamine blocker, such as cimetidine or famotidine, he will likely also exhibit a ranitidine allergy. It is important to distinguish between an actual allergy and side effects, common conditions and drug interactions that occur with this medication.
Signs of a ranitidine allergy that represent an emergency include swelling of the face, tongue and airway, hives, problems breathing, and dizziness. This type of allergy will usually make itself known soon after administration. As mentioned above, a known allergy to other histamine blockers will also predispose a patient to a ranitidine allergy. Unlike signs of an allergy, potential side effects are more likely to occur after therapy has commenced.
Use of ranitidine predisposes a patient to developing pneumonia, although this is not a sign of ranitidine allergy. A patient's chances of developing this respiratory infection also depend upon the strength of his overall immune system, any preexisting or current respiratory diseases he may have, and whether or not he smokes tobacco or is exposed to secondhand smoke. Symptoms of pneumonia include difficulty breathing or taking a deep breath, fever, frequent coughing and yellow or green-colored sputum. Immediate medical attention should be sought if any of these symptoms develop.
Liver damage is also not a ranitidine allergy but a possible and serious side effect of this drug. Symptoms include jaundice in the eyes and skin, abnormal bleeding or unexplained bruising. Other serious side effects that require immediate medical attention include an irregular heartbeat, breast enlargement in men or women and dark or concentrated urine. Changes in the patient's mood, orientation or vision are also cause for a medical evaluation.
Ranitidine is used by some patients to treat heartburn. Some of the symptoms of a heart attack are very similar to bad heartburn event. Patients are advised to seek medical attention if their "heartburn" symptoms are accompanied by sweating, radiation of the pain up into the jaw or down into the left shoulder, dizziness or difficulty breathing.
Substances that interact with ranitidine include alcohol, which may lessen or prevent the medication's healing effect on the stomach lining. Ranitidine also interacts with procainamide and propantheline. As this medication causes decreased stomach acidity, a variety of drugs including warfarin, lithium, glipizide and triazolam may be differently absorbed and require dosage readjustments. Patients are also advised to double-check the ingredients listing on other over-the-counter medications they may use in order to avoid inadvertently double dosing themselves.