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Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

About This Medicine

Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.

The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some examples?

Here are some examples of NSAIDs. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

Over-the-counter NSAIDs

  • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • naproxen (Aleve)

Prescription NSAIDs

  • celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • diclofenac (Voltaren)
  • etodolac (Lodine)
  • indomethacin (Indocin)
  • piroxicam (Feldene)

These are not complete lists of NSAIDs.

Why are NSAIDs used?

NSAIDS are used for many different health problems. NSAIDs help with pain and fever. They can also help reduce swelling and inflammation caused by an injury or a disease. Some NSAIDs can also help ease cramping and reduce blood loss from heavy menstrual bleeding.

What about side effects?

The most common side effects of NSAIDs are stomach upset, heartburn, and nausea. NSAIDs can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms may include hives, swelling of the face, wheezing, and shock. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911. Taking more of the medicine than what's recommended can increase your risk of side effects.

General information about side effects

All medicines can cause side effects. Many people don't have side effects. And minor side effects sometimes go away after a while.

But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.

If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

What are some cautions about NSAIDs?

Cautions for NSAIDs include the following:

  • NSAIDs can make certain serious conditions more likely, such as:
    • Stomach problems, especially in older adults. These problems include stomach or intestinal bleeding.
    • Heart attack and stroke. This is especially true if you have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease. This risk may be higher if you use NSAIDs for a long time or use higher doses of an NSAID.
    • A sudden kidney problem called acute kidney injury.
  • NSAIDs can make certain health problems worse, such as heart failure and kidney disease.
  • If you are using over-the-counter NSAIDs, don't use them for longer than 10 days without talking to your doctor.

General cautions for all medicines

Allergic reactions.
All medicines can cause a reaction. This can sometimes be an emergency. Before you take any new medicine, tell the doctor or pharmacist about any past allergic reactions you've had.
Drug interactions.
Sometimes one medicine may keep another medicine from working well. Or you may get a side effect you didn't expect. Medicines may also interact with certain foods or drinks, like grapefruit juice and alcohol. Some interactions can be dangerous.
Harm during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding, ask your doctor or pharmacist if all the medicines you take are safe.
Other health problems.
Before taking a medicine, be sure your doctor or pharmacist knows about all your health problems. The medicine for one health problem may affect another health problem.

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. That information will help prevent serious problems.

Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

Credits

Current as of: December 17, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine

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