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Is Your Heartburn Medication Damaging Your Kidneys? It Could Be!

More than 15 million Americans take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to manage their heartburn symptoms, and each is in danger of experiencing severe kidney damage that could result in wrongful death. A recent Johns Hopkins report indicates that patients who take medications like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid have a 20 to 50 percent higher risk of chronic kidney disease compared to non-users.

What We Know About PPIs

PPIs help those with heartburn feel relief by lowering the amount of acid that is produced by the stomach. In fact, the medication actually makes the body only produce about 10 percent of the amount of stomach acid it typically produces. The reduction can stop excess acid from reaching the esophagus, ending the pain and burning that people with acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) experience. PPIs are also helpful in treating peptic or stomach ulcers, as well as treating damage to the lower esophagus from stomach acid damage.

Although PPIs are typically quite effective in helping heartburn sufferers experience relief, it is not the first time they have come under fire for causing more serious health-related issues. A previous study indicated that these types of medications have been linked to short-term kidney problems such as acute kidney disease and an inflammatory kidney disease called acute interstitial nephritis. Another study also found that PPI users had a 20 percent increased risk of experiencing heart problems over those who did not take the drugs, even if they were otherwise healthy.

The most recent concern regarding PPIs is evidence that they can create chronic kidney problems in users. The medication can cause the kidneys to lose their ability to filter blood effectively, which can result in a patient needing to endure dialysis, kidney transplants, and even death.

These findings are the result of a national study that monitored 10,000 PPI users. The researchers also evaluated 250,000 patients of a healthcare system in Pennsylvania. A majority of the users in both groups already had blood pressure and cardiac issues, and many were obese. Researchers found that those who took PPI medications twice daily had a 46 percent increased risk of chronic diseases, whereas patients who only needed one dose a day had a 15 percent risk.

Why PPIs Cause Kidney Problems

No one is 100 percent certain of the reason why PPIs are believed to cause chronic kidney issues. However, there is some speculation that they occur because:

  • PPIs can cause decreased magnesium levels in the body, which can damage the kidneys.
  • The kidneys can also become damaged over time if patients experience frequent bouts of acute kidney inflammation from PPI use.

Other problems that PPI users are prone to experience include increased bone fractures and infections, such as pneumonia and C. difficile.

What Doctors Are Doing About the Problem

Before these studies were conducted, doctors put patients on PPIs for undetermined lengths of time. Now, however, they are limiting the time their patients stay on the drugs, and limiting the amount they take. Additionally, since GERD symptoms are often the result of poor diet and health, doctors have encouraged patients to improve their diets and exercise regimens instead of simply placing them on medication. Lastly, physicians can look to other medications, such as H2 blockers like Tagament, Zantac, and Pepcid, to relieve GERD-associated symptoms.

Do You Have Kidney Problems Due to PPIs?

If you are taking PPIs, you could have kidney problems and not even know it. Common symptoms of kidney-related problems include nausea, vomiting, swelling of the legs and feet, changes in urine output, high blood pressure, shortness in breath, loss of appetite, and fatigue and weakness. If you suspect you have kidney problems because of your medication, contact a doctor immediately.

If your loved one was the victim of wrongful death because of PPI use, you may be entitled to receive compensation and the attorneys of Wayne Wright may be able to help. To schedule your free consultation to speak with an attorney about your situation, call 800-237-3334 or complete our online form and one of our legal professionals will answer promptly.