Pros and cons of ibuprofen

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

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug. Anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes called 'non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs' (NSAIDs).

There are more than twenty different types.

Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to ease pain in various conditions including: arthritis (various types), muscle and ligament pains (often caused by injury or a 'strain'), period pain, pains after operations, and some other types of pain.

Ibuprofen and aspirin are also used to reduce fever. Aspirin (low dose) is used to help prevent blood clots which can cause a heart attack or stroke.

NSAIDS work by reducing the amount of prostaglandins that are made. Prostaglandins are chemicals which are released by cells at sites of injury. Prostaglandins cause inflammation and swelling. They also 'sensitize' nerve endings which can cause pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs stop the synthesis (manufacture) of prostaglandins. So, with less prostaglandins, there is less inflammation and pain.

After a single dose, they work to ease pain. With repeated doses and increasing blood levels, they also reduce inflammation. This may further reduce pain and stiffness which occurs with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and muscle sprains. So, you might not notice the maximum effect for up to 1-3 weeks after starting a course or tablets.

The different types of NSAIDs have pros and cons. For example:

• Some are better at reducing inflammation, but may be less effective as analgesics.
• Some are less likely to cause side-effects, but may not be as strong as others.
• Some need to be taken more often each day than others.
Some people find that one type works better than another for them. If one type does not work at first, then a different type may. It is not unusual for people to try two or more brands before finding one that suits them best.

Most people who take anti-inflammatory drugs have no side-effects, or only minor ones. One important caution is that one should not take anti-inflammatory drugs if they are pregnant.

NSAIDs can sometimes cause a stomach ulcer to develop. Bleeding can be severe, and even life-threatening. Elderly people are more prone to this problem, but it can occur in anyone. Signs of trouble are stomach or abdominal pains, passing blood or black stools, or vomiting blood.

The risk of bleeding into the stomach is increased if a person is taking NSAIDs plus warfarin, steroids, or low-dose aspirin (used by many people to help prevent a heart attack or stroke). So, these combinations of medicines should only be used if absolutely necessary.

One should not take an anti-inflammatory drug if they have a past history of a peptic ulcer (duodenal or stomach ulcer) unless they are under the supervision of a doctor.

Aother medicine may be prescribed to protect the lining of the stomach from the effects of the NSAID. This usually prevents bleeding and ulcers from developing if you take NSAIDs.

In some people with asthma, the asthma symptoms such as wheezing or breathlessness are triggered or made worse by NSAIDs.

Other side effects include nausea, diarrhea, rashes, headache, dizziness, nervousness, depression, drowsiness, insomnia (poor sleep), vertigo (dizziness), and tinnitus (noises in the ear).

Ibuprofen inhibits the anti-platelet effect of low dose aspirin so it should not be used in people who are on aspirin prophylaxis.

Like all NSAIDS, ibuprofen increases the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

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