H-2-Receptor Antagonists: Uses & Side Effects

H-2-receptor antagonists are a group of medicines that reduce the amount of acid produced by the cells in the lining of the stomach. They are also called H2 blockers. They include cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine and ranitidine, and have various different brand names.


Uses

H2 blockers are commonly used:

  • To reduce acid reflux which may cause heartburn or inflammation of the gullet (oesophagitis). These conditions are sometimes called gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
  • To treat ulcers in the stomach and in part of the gut (the duodenum).
  • To help heal ulcers associated with anti-inflammatory medication called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • In other conditions where it is helpful to reduce acid in the stomach.

At one time they were used as one part of a treatment to get rid of Helicobacter pylori, a germ (bacterium) found in the stomach, which can cause ulcers. However, proton pump inhibitors are now preferred for this use.


Side effects

Most people who take H2 blockers do not have any side-effects. However, side-effects occur in a small number of users. The most common side-effects are diarrhoea, headache, dizziness, rash and tiredness. For a full list of side-effects and possible interactions associated with your medicine, consult the leaflet that comes with your medication.


Other considerations

You should consult your doctor if your symptoms worsen, or if you experience any of the following problems which can indicate a serious gut disorder:

  • Bringing up (vomiting) blood. This may be obviously fresh blood but altered blood in vomit can look like ground coffee. Doctors call this ‘coffee-ground vomit’.
  • Blood in your stools (faeces). This may be obvious blood, or it may just make your stools black.
  • Unintentional weight loss.
  • Difficulty swallowing, including food getting stuck in the gullet (oesophagus).
  • Persistent tummy (abdominal) pain or persistent vomiting.


Keywords: H2 blockers; H-2-receptor antagonists.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.