Understanding Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

The truth about NSAIDs

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are mainly used for the temporary relief of pain, inflammation and the reduction of fevers. They can also specifically be used for headaches, arthritis, injuries, and menstrual cramps. Certain NSAIDs can be used to stop the clotting of blood for a certain period of time.

Although NSAIDs are helpful for the relief of pain, there can also be many side effects of the drugs. The types of side effects can vary with the person and the type of NSAID. Most common side effects of NSAID are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches and drowsiness. Long-term use of NSAIDs can cause gastric erosions, which can become stomach ulcers and in extreme cases can cause severe haemorrhage, resulting in death. The risk of death as a result of use of NSAIDs is 1 in 12,000 for adults aged 16–45.The risk increases almost twentyfold for those over 75. Other dangers of NSAIDs are exacerbating asthma and causing kidney damage. Apart from aspirin, prescription and over-the-counter NSAIDs also increase the risk of myocardial infarction and stroke.

Common Types of NSAIDs:

Over-the-Counter Anti-inflammatory Drugs

NSAIDs that can be purchased over-the-counter include:

Advil, Motrin ibuprofen
Aleve naproxen sodium
Ascriptin, Bayer, Ecotrin aspirin

Prescription Anti-inflammatory Drugs

The following NSAIDs are available only with a doctor’s prescription:

Anaprox naproxen sodium
Celebrex celecoxib
Clinoril sulindac
Daypro oxaprozin
Disalcid salsalate
Dolobid diflunisal
Feldene piroxicam
Indocin indomethacin
Lodine etodolac
Mobic meloxicam
Naprosyn naproxen
Relafen nabumetone
Toradol ketorolac tromethamine
Vimovo naproxen/esomeprazole
Voltaren diclofenac

All prescription NSAIDs have a warning that the medications may increase the chance of having a heart attack, stroke, and stomach bleeding.

Common side effects of NSAIDs include:
  • Stomach pain and heartburn
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Increased bleeding tendency while taking NSAIDs, especially aspirin. Your doctor might tell you to stop NSAIDs before surgery. Ask your doctor before taking NSAIDs if you are on blood-thinning medications (such as Coumadin).
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears may result from certain NSAIDs, including aspirin. This can usually be improved by decreasing the dose.
  • Allergic reactions such as rashes, wheezing, and throat swelling
  • Liver or kidney problems. These problems can be evaluated by blood tests in people who take NSAIDs for prolonged periods. People with any kidney problems should not take NSAIDs without checking with their doctor.
  • High blood pressure
  • Leg swelling

Please note: The side effects listed are the most common ones. All possible side effects are not included. Always contact your doctor if you have questions about your particular medication or if you are experiencing any unusual side effect.

Who Is More Likely to Develop Stomach Ulcers and Bleeding While Taking NSAIDs?

Anyone can develop a stomach ulcer while taking NSAIDs. However, several of the following factors may place a person at higher risk:

  • Age over 60 years
  • History of stomach ulcers
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Multiple medical problems
  • 3 or more alcoholic drinks daily
  • Use of anti-inflammatory steroids, such as prednisone
  • Kidney failure

So please be careful when opting for NSAIDs to relief pain. They may help provide temporary pain relief, but they may bring you undesirable side effects and they definitely will not eliminate the root cause of the pain. Make the right choice to live healthily.


*With reference from WebMD.com

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