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NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and Arthritis

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How Are NSAIDs Prescribed?

NSAIDs are prescribed in different doses depending on your condition. Dosages may range from one to four times per day, depending on how long each drug stays in the body. Your doctor may prescribe higher doses of NSAIDs if you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), for example, because frequently there is a significant degree of heat, swelling, redness, and stiffness in the joints in RA. Lower doses may be adequate for osteoarthritis and muscle injuries, since there is generally less swelling and often no warmth or redness to the joints.

No single NSAID is guaranteed to work. Your doctor may prescribe several types of NSAIDs before finding one that works best for you.

Can I Take NSAIDs If I'm Being Treated for High Blood Pressure?

NSAIDs can raise blood pressure in some people. Some people with high blood pressure may have to stop taking NSAIDs if their blood pressure increases in spite of regularly taking their blood pressure medications.

Are NSAIDs Available Without a Prescription?

Yes. Over-the-counter NSAIDs are available without a prescription in lower doses than comparable prescription NSAIDs. Current over-the-counter NSAIDs include:

  • Aspirin compounds (Anacin, Ascriptin, Bayer, Bufferin, and Excedrin)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, and Motrin)
  • Naproxen sodium (Aleve)

Over-the-counter NSAID labels must contain information about the risks of heart attack, stroke, and stomach bleeding. As with any medication, always follow the directions on the label and the instructions from your doctor.

Never use an over-the-counter NSAID continuously for more than 10 days without checking with your doctor. Over-the-counter NSAIDs are effective pain relievers, but they are intended for short-term use. When taking NSAIDs for long periods of time, you should be carefully monitored by your doctor so she can detect side effects and change your treatment if necessary.

Who Should Not Take NSAIDs?

Ask your doctor before taking an NSAID if: 

  • You have had serious side effects from taking a pain reliever or fever reducer
  • You have a higher risk of stomach bleeding (see above) 
  • You have stomach problems, including heartburn
  • You have high blood pressure, heart disease, liver cirrhosis, or kidney disease
  • You have asthma
  • You take a diuretic medication

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 11, 2014
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