These drugs act by altering the body’s production of chemicals called prostaglandins. Some prostaglandins in the body affect how inflammation and pain develop. Thus, by reducing the amount of these prostaglandins, NSAIDs can reduce the discomfort linked to inflammation.
There are several products under different trade names within the class of drugs called NSAIDs (See adjacent table). All of these products have both analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory (reducing inflammation) properties. Their effectiveness varies according to the condition, the person and the dose. Two people will often respond very differently to a single NSAID. For this reason a doctor may prescribe several NSAIDs, one after another, looking for the drug that gives most relief. Combining two or more NSAIDs rarely provides more relief and may increase the risk of side effects.
You should always let your doctor and pharmacist know if you are currently taking an NSAID.
Before taking any medication, the risks of the medicine must be weighed against its benefit. This is a decision for you and your doctor to make. The following factors need to be considered.
Allergies - Let your doctor know if you have ever had an unusual reaction to any non-steroidal antiinflammatory or you are sensitive to aspirin.
Pregnancy - These drugs may cause unwanted effects on the fetus or newborn baby if taken regularly. If taken late in pregnancy, they may increase the length of pregnancy or prolong labour.
Breastfeeding - Some of these drugs can pass into the breast milk and cause unwanted effects in the nursing baby.
Children - Discuss the use for your child with the child’s doctor. Some NSAIDs may be safe while others can cause serious side effects.
Older Adults - Confusion, swelling of feet and lower legs, stomach problems or sudden decrease in the amount of urine may occur in elderly patients. Older adults can be more sensitive to the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Other Medical Conditions - Tell your doctor if you have any other medical conditions. The use of an NSAID may not be advised with certain medical states such as ulcers, liver or kidney disease, asthma or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Other Medicines - To avoid possible drug interactions or drug duplication, tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking any other prescription or non-prescription medicines.
Along with the benefits, anti-inflammatory drugs can cause unwanted side effects. This is most common when they are used for many weeks or in large doses. Some side effects can be just uncomfortable while others can be more serious and need medical attention.
Some common side effects of NSAIDs generally go away as your body adjusts to the medication. If any of the following continue or become bothersome, you should contact your doctor:
More serious side effects are less common but should be discussed with your doctor immediately if they are noticed:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are useful in the treatment of several medical conditions. Given the variety of NSAIDs available today, you and your doctor should be able to find a medication to suit you.