Aspirin side effects

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Aspirin was the first of the non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

The original natural form was derived from the bark of the willow tree. The synthetic form was developed by Bayer in the 1800’s.

Aspirin has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-pyretic (fever-lowering) effects. While effective, it has many potential side effects and therefore must be used carefully. Like most drugs, an overdose of aspirin or salicylates can be fatal.

The most common side effects of aspirin are heartburn and other symptoms of stomach irritation such as indigestion, pain, nausea, and vomiting. Stomach irritation may lead to bleeding, which may cause upper gastrointestinal bleeding manifested by vomiting of either bright red blood or coffee ground like material which is an indicator of partially digested blood. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding can also present with tarry black stools.

Patients who take other non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and who are on aspirin prophylaxis for cardiac problems are at increased risk for developing stomach problems. Taking a COX 2 inhibitor to possibly protect the stomach doesn't seem to work if a patient takes concomitant aspirin. Also, taking other NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and naproxen at the same time as aspirin negates the anti-platelet effect of aspirin.

Sometimes, simultaneous treatment with proton pump inhibitor medicines may protect the stomach. Patients who have H., pylori infection and who are treated with aspirin also are at increased risk for ulcers.

These symptoms may be reduced by taking aspirin with meals, with an antacid, with a glass of milk, or by taking enteric-coated or timed-release aspirin. Also, it is best not to take aspirin with alcohol or coffee (or other beverages containing caffeine, such as tea or cocoa and many soft drinks).

Alcohol and caffeine make the stomach more sensitive to irritation. The non aspirin salicylate preparations sometimes are less irritating to the stomach and may be substituted for aspirin.

People develop asthma, hay fever, nasal congestion, or hives from aspirin or NSAIDs should never take aspirin, nor should people who have active stomach or duodenal ulcers. Anyone who has ever had a peptic ulcer should be very careful about taking aspirin because it can lead to a recurrence.

Aspirin is known to interfere with the action of the platelets (blood cells involved in clotting). As a result, some people who take aspirin experience easy bruising of the skin. Therefore, people who have major bleeding problems should not take aspirin. The bruising is also most pronounced in patients who also take concomitant corticosteroids. This combination also markedly increases the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding. Also, keep in mind that aspirin should not be taken for 10-14 days before surgery (including surgery in the mouth) to avoid excessive bleeding during or after the operation. Aspirin works by deactivating platelets and the effect is irreversible and lasts ten days.

High doses of salicylates may cause ringing in the ears and slight deafness.

Aspirin and other NSAIDs affect the kidney function and they can cause fluid accumulation.

There could be a link between the use of aspirin and the development of Reye's syndrome. Reye's syndrome is a rare but possibly fatal disease seen most often in children and teenagers. It usually affects those recovering from chicken pox or a viral illness such as the flu.

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