Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) you can buy without a prescription (not a complete list)
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Aspirin is another example of an NSAID that you can buy without a prescription. But aspirin works differently from these other NSAIDs. See the topic Aspirin for more information.
Prescription NSAIDs (not a complete list)
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Voltaren is available in a pill and also in a gel that can be rubbed on the skin over a painful area.
If your doctor prescribed NSAIDs, take them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine. Always read and follow all instructions on the label.
How It Works
NSAIDs reduce inflammation and relieve fever and pain by blocking enzymes and proteins made by the body. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen block a protein (called prostaglandin) that makes heavy menstrual bleeding worse. Aspirin does not block this protein.
Why It Is Used
NSAIDs relieve pain and fever. They also reduce swelling and inflammation caused by an injury or a disease such as arthritis.
Some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, help ease cramping and reduce blood loss from heavy menstrual bleeding.
How Well It Works
NSAIDs work well to relieve pain, decrease fever, and reduce swelling and inflammation caused by an injury or disease.1 Some NSAIDs help reduce heavy menstrual bleeding.2, 3 NSAIDs can help relieve the pain of kidney stones.4
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
- Trouble breathing.
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Signs of a heart attack or stroke.
Call your doctor if you have:
- Blood in the stool.
- Unexplained bleeding of any kind.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Do not use a nonprescription NSAID for longer than 10 days without talking to your doctor.
NSAIDs are strong medicines. The actions they take in your body to help one condition can cause problems in other ways. NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, skin reactions, and serious stomach and intestinal bleeding.
- These risks are greater if you take NSAIDs at higher doses or for longer periods than recommended.
- People who are older than 65 or who have existing heart, stomach, kidney, liver, or intestinal disease are more likely to have problems.
Do not take NSAIDs if you have had an allergic reaction to this type of medicine in the past. If you have been told to avoid a medicine, talk to your doctor before you take it.
Talk to your doctor before taking NSAIDs if you have:
- Allergies to aspirin or other pain relievers.
- Ulcers or a history of bleeding in your stomach or intestines.
- Stomach pain, upset stomach, or heartburn that lasts or comes back.
- Bleeding or easy bruising.
- A habit of drinking more than 3 alcohol drinks a day. This increases your risk of stomach bleeding.
- High blood pressure.
- Kidney, liver, or heart disease.
Be sure to tell your doctor about all the nonprescription and prescription medicines you take. Talk to your doctor before using NSAIDs if you take:
- Blood thinners, such as warfarin (for example, Coumadin), heparin, or aspirin.
- Medicine to treat mental health problems.
- Medicine to decrease swelling (water pills).
- Medicine for arthritis or diabetes.
If you take NSAIDs regularly, your doctor may recommend that you also take a medicine such as a proton pump inhibitor (PPI). These medicines can help protect the stomach lining.5
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
- Gøtzsche PC (2007). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, search date December 2006. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence. Also available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
- Chandavarkar U, Roy S (2010). Dysmenorrhea. In T Goodwine et al., eds., Management of Common Problems in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 253–255. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
- Duckitt K, Collins S (2008). Menorrhagia, search date October 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
- Teichman JMH (2004). Acute renal colic from ureteral calculus. New England Journal of Medicine, 350(7): 684–693.
- Chan FKL, et al. (2007). Combination of a cyclo-oxygenase-2 inhibitor and a proton-pump inhibitor for prevention of recurrent ulcer bleeding in patients at very high risk: A double-blind randomised trial. Lancet, 369(9573): 1621–1626.
Last Revised: May 14, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
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