Arthritis: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

29 January 2016
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29 January 2016, Comments: 0

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs work by reducing fever, pain and inflammation in the body. Always bear in mind that inflammation is a bodily response to injury or irritation and characterized by warmth, redness, pain and swelling. These medications are used to manage the symptoms of different types of arthritis and soft tissue inflammation such as bursitis, tendonitis, sprains and bursitis. In addition, it can also be used to manage gout attacks.

NSAIDs only manage the symptoms but could not cure arthritis. Take note that these medications only work as long as they are used. There are low-dosage NSAIDs available over-the-counter but the high-dose variants requires a prescription from a doctor.

How NSAIDs work

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work by blocking the release of certain body chemicals specifically prostaglandins that are involved in pain and inflammation.


Stomach pain or heartburn (most common side effect) and stomach ulcers are the usual effects of NSAIDs.

Despite the variety of NSAIDs available in the market, there is no distinct difference in their capability to minimize inflammation and pain. Nevertheless, every individual responds in a different way to each class of NSAIDs. In addition, individuals who have health issues usually use NSAIDs than others. There are also some varieties that are convenient since they can be taken once or twice in a day.

Typical side effects of NSAIDs

Even though non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are considered relatively safe to use, it is still vital to be familiar with the usual side effects particularly those who need to use them on a long-term basis. The side effects can range from mild to life-threatening.

  • Stomach pain or heartburn (most common side effect) and stomach ulcers
  • Bleeding – Aspirin increases the risk for bleeding in general.
  • Increase in the blood pressure
  • Increased risk for heart issues such as heart attack or stroke especially when used extensively or in high-risk scenarios (right after heart surgery)
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness or diminished level of alertness
  • Allergic reactions in which rashes, wheezing and swelling of the throat occurs
  • Kidney or liver problems can occur but considered rare

If there is a need to use an over-the-counter NSAID on a daily basis for more than 2 weeks, it is best to consult a doctor first. The over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are effective in relieving pain, but intended only for short-term use. Using the medications over a long period of time requires monitoring by the doctor to check for any detrimental side effects and modify the treatment if needed.

When to consult a doctor?

Get in touch with a doctor right away if the following side effects are present:

  • Unusual weight gain
  • Retention of fluid (swelling in the feet, around the ankles, hands, lower legs and even around the eyes)
  • Vomiting especially if blood-streaked
  • Black, tarry stools in individuals who are not currently using iron supplements

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