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