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    NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and Arthritis

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    NSAIDs -- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- are a type of pain reliever. At prescription doses, these drugs also reduce inflammation. Inflammation is the body's response to irritation or injury and is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. NSAIDs are used to treat a variety of conditions that cause pain and inflammation, including arthritis and tendinitis. NSAIDs are also used to treat pain from injury or other causes of long-term pain.

    Over-the-Counter Anti-inflammatory Drugs

    NSAIDs that can be purchased without a prescription include:

    Advil, Motrin ibuprofen
    Aleve naproxen sodium
    Ascriptin, Bayer, Ecotrin aspirin

    Ibuprofen is also available as a prescription at doses higher than the over-the-counter medications.

    Prescription Anti-inflammatory Drugs

    How Do NSAIDs Work?

    NSAIDs work by blocking the production of certain chemicals in the body that cause inflammation.

    Do All NSAIDs Work the Same Way?

    There appears to be no fundamental difference in the ability of different NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation. However, you might find that you get more relief from one NSAID over another and some NSAIDs may have fewer side effects than others. The effect differs from person to person. Some NSAIDs also may be more convenient, since they only need be taken once or twice a day.

    What Are the Common Side Effects of NSAIDs?

    The FDA has recently strengthened its warning that NSAIDs cause an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, especially in higher doses. They have also been known to cause stomach bleeding. it is important that you be aware of potential side effects.

    NSAIDs are safest when low doses are taken for brief periods. Side effects most commonly occur if you are taking large doses over a prolonged time (months or years). Some side effects are mild and go away on their own or after reducing the dose. Others may be more serious and need medical attention.

    Common side effects of NSAIDs include:

    • Stomach pain and heartburn
    • Stomach ulcers
    • Increased bleeding tendency while taking NSAIDs, especially aspirin. Your doctor might tell you to stop NSAIDs before surgery. Ask your doctor before taking NSAIDs if you are on blood-thinning medications (such as Coumadin).
    • Headaches and dizziness
    • Ringing in the ears may result from certain NSAIDs, including aspirin. This can usually be improved by decreasing the dose.
    • Allergic reactions such as rashes, wheezing, and throat swelling
    • Liver or kidney problems. These problems can be evaluated by blood tests in people who take NSAIDs for prolonged periods. People with any kidney problems should not take NSAIDs without checking with their doctor.
    • High blood pressure
    • Leg swelling

    Please note: The side effects listed are the most common ones. Not all side effects are included. Always contact your doctor if you have questions about your particular medication or if you are experiencing any unusual side effect.

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