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Omeprazole magnesium is a medication used to treat symptoms of indigestion, heartburn, and stomach ulcers. It helps reduce the amount of acids produced in the gastrointestinal tract and actively heals tissues that have already been subjected to acid erosion. The drug is available in both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription strengths, and usually comes in the form of oral tablets or extended-release capsules. There are few risks of side effects or adverse health problems when taking omeprazole magnesium as directed, though allergic reactions and heart complications can rarely occur. It is important to speak with a doctor or pharmacist before using the drug to make sure it will be safe.
Specialized cells in the stomach called parietal cells secrete acids that help break down food products. When there is too much acid, however, serious damage can occur to the lining of the stomach and esophagus. Omeprazole magnesium prevents acid production by blocking enzyme activity in the parietal cells. The drug eases active cases of acid reflux and indigestion and helps prevent future episodes when it is taken shortly before meals. By reducing the amount of acid, it also gives stomach ulcers and other areas of inflamed tissue time to heal.
Most adult patients who suffer from frequent heartburn or stomach ulcers are instructed to take one 20 milligram tablet of OTC omeprazole magnesium a day for four to eight weeks, or until their symptoms improve. People with severe symptoms might be told to take more frequent doses or try a higher strength prescription solution. Since there are some risks of drug interactions and negative side effects, doctors usually review a patient's medical history, current medication use, and allergies in detail before prescribing high strength omeprazole magnesium.
The most common side effects associated with omeprazole magnesium are mild abdominal pains, diarrhea, and headaches. Some patients also experience nausea, dizziness, and problems sleeping. Signs of an allergic reaction to the drug may include skin rashes and hives, swelling in the face and airways, trouble breathing, and chest tightness. Rarely, the medication can cause the heart to race or beat out of rhythm. Any unusual or severe side effects should be addressed in an emergency room as soon as possible to avoid major complications.
Most patients who take omeprazole magnesium and follow their doctors' orders about diet and exercise see significant improvements in their symptoms within the first month of treatment. In addition to taking the drug, a person may be instructed to avoid alcohol and certain foods that are known to trigger heartburn symptoms. Quitting smoking, staying active, and attending regular health checkups are also important elements of overcoming chronic gastrointestinal problems.