What are the side effects of NSAIDs?

What are the side effects of NSAIDs?

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NSAIDs- what they’re used for & common side effects

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What are NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories) ?

  • NSAIDs stands for Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
  • They are a group of medications most commonly used as painkillers, though certain forms are used for other purposes, such as thinning the blood
  • NSAIDs commonly used in Australia include
    • Voltaren (Diclofenac)
    • Nurofen (Ibuprofen)
    • Celebrex (Celecoxib)
    • Ponstan (Mefenamic Acid)
    • Meloxicam (Mobic)
    • Indomethacin (Indocid)
    • Aspirin (Cartia, Astrix)
  • NSAIDs inhibit “Prostaglandins” , which are chemicals naturally formed in the body.
  • These Prostaglandins would normally produce pain, inflammation or fever but the NSAIDs act against them, thereby relieving symptoms.
  • NSAIDs can have various effects that vary slightly between different medications.

what are the side effects of NSAIDs

What are NSAIDs used for?

NSAIDs can be used for a variety of conditions. For example:

  • Celecoxib (Celebrex) is often used for joint pains in osteoarthritis.
  • Mefenamic Acid (Ponstan) is often used for period pains.
  • Aspirin (Cartia/ Cardiprin/ Aspro/ Alka-Seltzer/ Astrix) is often used for headaches (and has an additional role as a blood thinner).
  • Diclofenac (Voltaren/ Arthrotec/ Dinac/ Clonac) is often used for joint pains, back pain and muscle pains.
  • Ibuprofen (Brufen/ Motrin/ Nurofen/ Advil/ Rafen) is often used for joint pains, back pains and muscle pains (and also brings down a high temperature/fever).
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn/ Inza/ Naprogesic/ Vimovo/ Anaprox/ Crysanal) is often used for joint pains, back pain and muscle pains.
  • Indomethacin (Indocid) is commonly used to treat gout
  • Meloxicam(Mobic) is often used for joint pains, back pain and muscle pains.

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What are the side effects of NSAIDs?

  • NSAIDs can have life-threatening side-effects. You need to take great care when deciding whether to take them.
  • The risks of taking NSAIDs increase as you get older. Over-65’s should check with their doctor.
  • The risks also increase if you take them regularly.
  • Among other things, they can cause:
    • Gastritis or even bleeding from the stomach & peptic ulcers.
    • Kidney impairment.
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
    • Worsening health problems for patients with heart disease or stroke (with the exception of Aspirin).

Who should not take NSAIDs?

NSAIDs , including Celebrex, Volataren, Ibuprofen, are not recommended in certain cases, including:

  • Pregnant women, unless specifically advised by a specialist.
  • Certain asthmatics who have severe breathing problems triggered by NSAIDs.
  • People with previous heart attack, heart failure or stroke.
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis).
  • People with kidney disease.
  • People with previous peptic ulcers or significant gastritis.
  • People being treated for diabetes or hypertension should check with their GP first.
  • People taking any other medications should check with the pharmacist that they do not interact with NSAIDs
  • Under-18’s should not take Aspirin as there can be severe side effects. Certain NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen are safe to use in children and young adults

What else do I need to know about taking NSAIDs?

  • You should always take the minimum effective dose, ideally for the shortest amount of time possible 
  • You should take NSAIDs with food, not on an empty stomach.
  • If you develop any unexplained symptoms after taking an NSAID you should see a doctor straight away- particularly if you experience abdominal pain or dark coloured bowel motions (poo).

For more information regarding NSAIDs or the side effects of NSAIDs, speak to your GP.

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About the Author:

Richard Bennett
Dr Richard Bennett is an experienced UK-qualified GP, based in Melbourne. He attended medical school at Imperial College in London, and subsequently worked at Charing Cross Hospital and Royal Surrey County Hospital, before completing his vocational training in General Practice. For many years he was a GP owner in Norwich, where he was also an Executive Board Member for the Local Health Authority. He is a full time doctor working in a busy Melbourne GP clinic, as well as a founder and director of Qoctor. He is a regular contributor on the topics of migraine and mental health.

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