Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are a class of drugs used to treat pain, fever, inflammation, muscle aches, headaches, menstrual cramps, gout, dental pain, arthritis and injuries.
They work by interfering with the enzymes that produce prostaglandins, a substance that causes pain and inflammation. The enzyme, cyclo-oxyganase (COX), has different functions depending on the part of the body it is found. In the stomach, it protects the lining and is named COX-1. In white blood cells, it is named COX-2 and is found at inflamed sites. Different NSAIDs may target either enzyme, however most medications target both. The more the NSAID inhibits COX-1, then the greater the possibility that stomach issues may result from bleeding to ulcers. The more the NSAID inhibits COX-2, then the greater the likelihood of causing issues related to the heart.
Many NSAIDs are available over the counter such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen, or, stronger NSAID forms that are prescribed by a doctor. Aspirin is different from the rest of these drugs because it also prevents the blood from clotting and some people may be on a daily dose to help prevent heart disease. It is important for anyone doing so, not to combine it with other NSAIDs without a doctor’s approval.
NSAIDs may need to be avoided by anyone with a history of gastro-intestinal issues, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure (uncontrolled), kidney disease, heart disease (with the exception of aspirin), asthma, women trying to conceive, pregnancy or breastfeeding women. Drug interactions may result in those taking diuretics, blood thinners, antidepressants, certain anticonvulsants, some diabetes medication, and synthetic antibiotics.
Drinking alcohol along with NSAIDs increases the risk of stomach upset. Each person’s tolerance to stomach issues will vary but there is a greater risk of developing bleeding with alcohol.
NSAIDs may be taken orally, injected, taken in eye drops, rectally, or applied to the skin.