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What Is Esomeprazole? - Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

There are so many prescription drugs on the market today, it's hard to keep up with what they each do. Esomeprazole is a medication that treats heartburn and acid reflux disease. Read more to learn about its exact uses and possible side effects.

What Is Esomeprazole?

Esomeprazole is a prescription medication used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which is also known as heartburn and acid reflux disease. This occurs when stomach acid flows the wrong way and comes up into the esophagus, causing pain and discomfort. Chronic symptoms can also lead to esophageal damages as the acid wears it away. Esomeprazole can also be used to prevent stomach ulcers in patients who take regular doses of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and in patients who produce too much stomach acid, in a disease called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. It may also be used to prevent ulcer formation by the bacteria Helicobacter. Esomeprazole is actually the generic medicinal name, and the active ingredient is esomeprazole magnesium.

This type of medication is known as a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) and decreases the amount of stomach acid produced. Brand names include Nexium, though generic versions were recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Possible Side Effects

Unfortunately, like many medications, there are a number of possible side effects. Relatively minor side effects include headaches, nausea, gas, constipation, and dry mouth. It may cause drowsiness or dizziness, both of which can be amplified when the medication is combined with alcohol. When used over long periods of time, it may also increase the incidence of spine, wrist, or hip fractures in people with osteoporosis. It is only intended to be taken exactly as it is prescribed, so users should get explicit directions from their doctor and pharmacist. Mothers should not breastfeed while taking esomeprazole. It should not be taken by people who have a history of ulcers, liver disease, or in people who have had previous allergic reactions to proton-pump inhibitors, like lansoprazole or omeprazole.

More serious side effects include blisters or peeling skin, hives, rash, itching, difficulties breathing, swelling, irregular heartbeat, dizziness or lightheadedness, muscle spasms, shaking or tremors, seizures, diarrhea, stomach pains, and fever. These serious effects should be brought to the attention of a doctor as soon as possible. It is also possible to overdose on this medication, and this can result in confusion, drowsiness, blurred vision, irregular heart rate, sweating, flushing, and dry mouth. Notice how some of these symptoms overlap with the previously listed side effects.

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