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Safe Pain Relief With Aspirin Therapy

On aspirin therapy? Aspirin can interact with other drugs, causing side effects. Know your risks.

Aspirin Therapy: Working With Your Doctor continued...

"Having said all of these negative things about aspirin," says Cryer, "I want to stress that it's an excellent medicine for the right people. Everyone just needs to recognize that there are risks as well as benefits."

"Despite the risks, I think that more people should probably be on daily aspirin therapy," says Barr. "Many people at risk of cardiovascular disease -- men over 40, postmenopausal women, people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or especially diabetes -- should be getting low-dose aspirin, but aren't."

If you take daily aspirin -- or are considering it -- here are some tips.

  • Make sure your doctor (or doctors) knows about all other medicines you take. This is key if you see multiple specialists, says Barr. For instance, a rheumatologist might prescribe an NSAID for your arthritis, but your cardiologist might suggest low-dose aspirin. Each doctor needs to know what the other is doing. Otherwise, you could get into trouble.

  • Watch out for NSAIDs in other products. NSAIDs, including aspirin, are common ingredients. They can pop up in places you might not expect, says Barr. For instance, some cold and flu remedies, sleep aids, and even antacids contain aspirin and other NSAIDs.

  • Watch out for signs of gastrointestinal bleeding. Signs include vomiting blood or dark stools. Unfortunately, these are often the first symptoms that something is wrong, says Cryer. Sometimes, stomach upset or pain can be an early warning.

  • Never start taking daily aspirin without your doctor's approval. It could do you more harm than good.

Cryer hopes that, in the future, some of aspirin's risks will be reduced.

"What we really need is a safer version of aspirin," he tells WebMD. "That's what the pharmaceutical companies are working on now." But Cryer says that this hypothetical safer aspirin is a ways off -- if it's coming at all.

For now, he says, we have to make do with the imperfect wonder drug we've got.

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