Acid is produced naturally in your stomach to help you digest food and to kill germs (bacteria). This acid is irritant so your body produces a natural mucous barrier which protects the lining of your stomach. In people who take painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), this barrier can break down, allowing the acid to damage the stomach, causing inflammation, ulcers and other conditions. Other people can have a problem with the muscular band at the top of the stomach that keeps the stomach tightly closed. This may allow the acid to escape and irritate the oesophagus, causing heartburn. This is often referred to as 'acid reflux'.
Proton pump inhibitors such as esomeprazole stop cells in the lining of the stomach from producing too much acid. This helps to prevent ulcers from forming, or assists the healing process where damage has already occurred. By decreasing the amount of acid, they can also help to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux disease, such as heartburn.
Esomeprazole is available on prescription and can be bought for the relief of reflux symptoms from pharmacies and other retail outlets.
Esomeprazole is also used as one part of a treatment to get rid of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium found in the stomach, which can cause ulcers.
Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about esomeprazole and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
Take esomeprazole exactly as your doctor tells you to. There are different strengths of tablets and capsules available so your doctor will tell you which is right for you. It is common to take just one dose a day, although if you are taking it for either Helicobacter pylori eradication or for Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, you will be asked to take two doses a day. Your doctor will tell you which dose is right for you and the directions will also be on the label of the pack to remind you.
It is important that you don't chew esomeprazole before you swallow. The tablets, capsules and granules (in the sachets) are all manufactured with a special coating which must not be crushed. If you have difficulties swallowing, you can stir the tablets into a glass of water to make swallowing easier. The capsules likewise can be opened up and the contents mixed into water to make swallowing easier. If you make up your doses in this way, make sure that you drink the mixture within 30 minutes of making it. If you have been given sachets, pour the contents of each sachet into 15 ml of water. Stir the liquid and then leave it to thicken for a minute or so before stirring it again. Then swallow the liquid, rinse out the glass with a little more water, and then swallow this water too.
You can take esomeprazole before or after food.
If you forget to take a dose at your usual time, you can take it when you remember (unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose). Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with esomeprazole. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
Common esomeprazole side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting), stomach ache, wind
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking esomeprazole it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have any problems with the way your liver works, or with the way your kidneys work.
- If you have any of the following symptoms: difficulty swallowing, loss of blood, weight loss, or if you are being sick (vomiting).
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.
The patient information leaflet (PIL) is a leaflet containing specific information about medical conditions, doses and side effects. You can download a copy of the PIL here:
Patient Info Leaflet