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Pantoprazole is a medication used to reduce the amount of stomach acid a person produces. Though stomach acid is a necessary component of digestion, it can cause damage to parts of the digestive system when the stomach produces too much or if the acid is not properly neutralized. The esophagus is particularly vulnerable to damage from stomach acid and can develop a number of chronic diseases from too much exposure. Treatment with pantoprazole allows the esophagus to heal from damage and prevents subsequent damage from occurring.
A proton-pump inhibitor, pantoprazole stops acid-production in the stomach. Stomach secretions, which is mainly hydrochloric acid, is a powerful acid with a pH of somewhere between 1 and 2. It is produced in the lining of the stomach. Proton-pump inhibitors stop the stomach from releasing too much acid, which means that they treat the cause of the problem rather than simply masking the symptoms.
In a healthy digestive tract, acid and bicarbonates are released in a proper balance to keep the pH in the stomach stable for digestion. People with a condition known as Zollinger-Ellison syndrome produce more stomach acid than they can effectively neutralize. Pantoprazole can be used to treat this disease.
Pantoprazole can also be used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is a condition in which surplus acid climbs up the esophagus. This acid damages the lining of the esophagus, which over time can lead to serious conditions, including cancer. The use of pantoprazole allows the lining of the esophagus to heal and keeps the stomach from producing too much acid so that there is no further damage to the esophagus.
Usually, pantoprazole is taken 30 minutes before each meal. This allows the medication enough time to block the acid pumps before food arrives in the stomach. The stomach creates more acid right after a meal, so taking proton-pump inhibitors just before meals allows them to function at the time of peak production.
Taking pantoprazole for long periods of time can lead to a thinning of the bones. Patients who take the medication for longer than a year are at particular risk for fractures. Taking a low dose for only the amount of time that it is needed will decrease this risk.
Most patients respond well to pantoprazole and have few side effects. The most common side effects are rash, headache and gastrointestinal symptoms. Occasionally, patients may also experience dizziness, muscle pain and arrhythmia.