Pain Relief Medications: Are They Good for You?
- Acid reflux—regurgitation of stomach contents into the esophagus, causing heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth
- Esophageal stricture—narrowing of the esophagus, which makes swallowing difficult or painful
- Barrett's esophagus—a condition marked by a change in the lining in the esophagus due to long-term acid reflux
- Advancing age
- History of ulcers
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Use of anticoagulants and corticosteroids
- Black, tarry stools
- Vomiting of blood—may be red (fresh blood) or black (resembling coffee grounds)
- Severe heartburn or stomach cramps
- Stomach pain that disappears after eating or taking antacids
- Unexplainable nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Increased risk of kidney failure.
- Lightheadedness, drowsiness, confusion, ringing of the ears, and anxiety can occur, all of which usually disappear once the drugs are stopped.
- Because NSAIDs interfere with blood clotting, some people who take high doses of NSAIDs bruise easily. If you take blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin, consult with your doctor before starting NSAIDs.
- Allergic reactions to NSAIDs are not uncommon. Signs of a drug allergy include rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, wheezing, fainting, hives or rash, and puffiness around the eyes.
- The effectiveness of antihypertensive drugs may be limited and cause diastolic blood pressure to rise with NSAID use.
- There is a risk for heart failure in seniors who take diuretics and NSAIDs.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular conditions, such as atherosclerosis and blood clots, which can lead to complications such as a heart attack or stroke.
- NSAIDs are associated with toxic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver which can lead to liver damage.
- NSAIDs can reduce the effects of ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and thiazide diuretics. NSAIDs can also increase the risk of toxicity from digoxin.
Why Seniors Are at Increased Risk
- The liver is the body's central processing plant for drugs. As we age, the liver decreases in size, which means blood flow declines and processing slows.
- The amount of body fat increases while the amount of lean body mass and total body water decrease. These changes result in a higher concentration of drugs in the body fluids and hinder drug elimination.
- The kidneys help eliminate drugs from the body, but their work is slowed by declining kidney function. If you have kidney problems, use of NSAIDs should be avoided or monitored closely by your doctor.
How to Protect Yourself
- Consult your physician before taking NSAIDs (or any other drug).
- Take NSAIDs with food to help prevent gastrointestinal upset.
- Keep a list of medications handy when you need to share drug information with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Talk with your doctor about alternative pain relievers, including acetaminophen or herbal medications. All drugs have the potential for interaction and side effects.
Alliance for Aging Research http://www.agingresearch.org
Arthritis Foundation http://www.arthritis.org
Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca
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- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 04/2015 -
- Update Date: 04/17/2015 -