Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Originally Published: March 8, 2002 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 15, 2009
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Dear Alice,

You told your readers to take aspirin or ibuprofen.

Please be careful to mention that NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs], such as aspirin, ibuprofen, etc., taken daily, can be damaging to the stomach. I have bursitis in my hip and took ibuprofen daily for 4 months and ended up with stomach problems. Most people do not realize how damaging these drugs can be.

Thanks.

Dear Reader,

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium that are available over-the-counter and by prescription, are used to treat inflammation. Most of these medicines inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. The COX-1 enzyme protects the lining of the stomach and the intestine. The COX-2 enzyme is involved in the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like chemicals that are responsible for pain, fever, and inflammation.

NSAIDs are recommended to be taken with some food or milk to minimize the possibility of stomach upset, nausea, and/or vomiting. Buffered formulations of NSAIDs can offer further protection from these side effects. In the occasional user these adverse effects are pretty uncommon, often mild to moderate, and are usually reversible. Prolonged use (six months or longer) of NSAIDs can cause stomach irritations (including ulcers) and become toxic to the kidneys and stomach lining. People with a history of gastrointestinal (GI) problems or an allergy/sensitivity to NSAIDs need to consult a health care provider before taking them.

Some kinds of NSAIDs are more specific in dealing with inflammation and are less likely to irritate the GI system, such as the newer COX-2 only inhibitors. Available in the United States by prescription only, COX-2 inhibitors are FDA-approved to treat acute pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and dysmenorrhea. Most people take them only occasionally, but for people who may need to take an NSAID for the long-term, regularly, or in large doses, they need to discuss the benefits and possible side effects with their health care provider, including having their kidneys, liver, and stomach function monitored on a regular basis.

Thanks for pointing out some possible limits with NSAID medications and remember that it's always important to consult with your health care provider when taking medications in an ongoing manner.

Alice

December 6, 2002

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Dear Alice, Regarding NSAIDs, I, too, have bursitis in my hip and was afraid to take aspirin; but now that I have been informed, I'm not afraid to take it and will be sure to take it with food or...
Dear Alice, Regarding NSAIDs, I, too, have bursitis in my hip and was afraid to take aspirin; but now that I have been informed, I'm not afraid to take it and will be sure to take it with food or milk. Thanks for the information.