Proton pump inhibitors work by blocking the enzyme in the lining of the stomach that produces acid, states MedicineNet. This leaves only a little acid inside the stomach, so that if it backs up into the esophagus, it causes minimal irritation, states WebMD.
The reduction of acid in the stomach prevents ulcers from forming in the esophagus and allows pre-existing ulcers therein to heal, states MedicineNet. The medicine is typically used to treat symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, according to MedlinePlus. The medicine can also be used to treat ulcers in the stomach.
PPIs are taken by mouth, and some types are available over-the-counter, according to MedlinePlus. They are best used when taken a half hour before eating. If a person feels the need to take the medicine regularly, MedlinePlus recommends making an appointment to see the doctor.
Side effects are generally mild when using PPIs, according to MedlinePlus. If a person does experience side effects, they usually consist of headache, constipation, itching, nausea or diarrhea. However, there are some long-term side effects associated with PPis, including bone fractures and certain types of infections. Experiencing side effects such as trouble breathing or swelling of the face or mouth are signs of a serious allergic reaction, states WebMD. Anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek emergency medical care.