Many of us take NSAIDs on a regular basis for aches and pains. Just make sure you know the potential side effects.
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are some of the most commonly used pain relievers and can either be prescribed by your doctor or purchased over the counter (OTC). They’re used to treat a wide range of illnesses, from arthritis to headaches to sprains to postsurgical pain. Like any medication, NSAIDs can cause side effects, some of them serious.
Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin, etc.), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn), celecoxib (Celebrex), fenoprofen (Nalfon), indomethacin (Indocin), oxaprozin (Daypro), piroxicam (Feldene), diclofenac (Voltaren), salsalate (Disalcid)
How They Work
NSAIDs block proteins called cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX enzymes) that help make prostaglandins, hormone-like chemicals that cause pain by activating the inflammatory response. Blocking COX enzymes decreases the level of prostaglandins, reducing pain. NSAIDs also lessen inflammation like swelling, redness and fever.
Side Effects and What to Do About Them
The most common side effects of taking NSAIDs are stomach issues like irritation, pain, heartburn, gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. These side effects can usually be relieved by taking your NSAIDs with food or milk or by also taking antacids such as Mylanta or Tums. Dizziness, mild headaches, problems concentrating, balance issues and lightheadedness are also common.
More serious side effects can include high blood pressure, ulcers, allergic reactions, retaining fluid (which can cause swelling in the face, hands, lower legs, feet or ankles), bloody or cloudy urine, rashes, blurry vision, jaundice, exhaustion, difficulty breathing, ringing in the ears, vomiting blood, weakness in one side of the body, light sensitivity, extremely painful headache or back pain, a change in balance or ability to think clearly, chest pain and faster heartbeat. Let your doctor know right away if you experience any of these.
The FDA strengthened its warning about non-aspirin NSAIDs in 2015, saying they can increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes, even in the first weeks of use. The increased risk of heart attack or stroke still applies if you don’t have heart disease, though the risk is generally higher for those with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease.
Source: Need to Know: NSAIDs
thumbnail courtesy of medshadow.org
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