Since non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used in various conditions, it is important that you know the important facts about these medications. NSAIDs are the most prescribed medications in treating certain conditions such as arthritis. Many are familiar with the over-the-counter, non-prescription NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
It is important to note that NSAIDs are more than just pain medications since they also help reduce inflammation and lower fever. In addition, they also prevent blood from clotting which is beneficial to some individuals but not to others.
What are the risks?
A doctor should be consulted if pregnant, have asthma, high blood pressure or history of liver or kidney disease as well as ulcers in the past. Individuals older than 65 years of age should be careful when taking NSAIDs. The doctor will also ask about medications currently taken. These medications can intensify or counteract the effects of some medications. Remember that both the risk and severity of the side effects increases if the NSAIDs are taken for a long period of time.
How NSAIDs work
NSAIDs work by preventing an enzyme from performing its task. The enzyme is called cyclooxygenase or COX and has two forms. The COX-1 protects the stomach lining from strong acids and digestive chemicals as well as maintaining kidney function. As for COX-2, it is produced when the joints are inflamed or injured.
The standard NSAIDs disrupt the actions of both COX-1 and COX-2 which is why they trigger an upset stomach and bleeding while at the same time easing the pain and swelling. NSAIDs are available in various formulas and strengths. Some work better for some individuals than others. Generally, NSAIDs are taken with a glass of milk or food and the individual should avoid drinking alcohol.
The COX-2 inhibitors are a special category of NSAIDs which target only the COX-2 enzyme that stimulates the inflammatory response. Since they do not block the actions of the COX-1 enzymes, these medications do not cause stomach upset or bleeding than the traditional NSAIDs.
When a COX-2 inhibitor is used, the individual should not use a traditional NSAID. The doctor should be informed if the individual has a heart attack, angina, stroke, hypertension, blood clot or sensitivity to aspirin or sulfa drugs.
COX-2 inhibitors also cause certain side effects such as nausea, abdominal pain and indigestion. A fatty meal or using antacids can reduce the ability of the body to absorb and utilize COX-2 inhibitors.
When NSAIDs are used
NSAIDs are commonly used in treating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis and bursitis. These medications are relatively affordable and have been the first line of medications used to reduce pain and inflammation. If you want to learn more about the effectiveness of these medications, read here.
As for the COX-2 inhibitors, they are more expensive than the traditional NSAIDs and often used for long-term conditions such as arthritis since they are safer for the stomach.