What are NSAIDs?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a group of anti-inflammatory medications which are commonly used as pain-killers. These medications are very common and are available over-the-counter and as prescription medications. Some examples of NSAIDs include:

  • Ibuprofen (Nurofen)

  • Aspirin (Astrix)

  • Naproxen (Naprosyn)

  • Diclofenac (Voltaren)

  • Indomethacin (Indocin)

NSAIDs work by blocking the action of the COX enzymes. The COX enzymes are responsible for producing prostaglandins, which are responsible for causing inflammation in the body, causing pain and fevers.

What are NSAIDs Commonly Used For?

NSAIDs are a very commonly used medication, and can be used for relief from pain caused by inflammation. Examples of medical conditions for which NSAIDs are used include:

  • Migraines

  • Arthritis (including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and gout)

  • Sports injuries

  • Menstrual cramps

What are some side-effects of NSAIDs?

There are a number of relatively harmless common side effects of NSAIDs, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

  • Rash

  • Dizziness

  • Drowsiness

  • Headaches

However, there are a number of more serious side-effects associated with NSAID use, in particular if NSAIDs are used for a long time. Some of these are listed below:

  • Gastric Ulcers: The COX enzymes also produce prostaglandins which are used to protect the lining of the stomach. By blocking their action, the stomach lining is weakened and there is an increased risk of ulceration of the stomach lining

  • Prolonged bleeding: Prostaglandins also promote the actions of platelets to clot the blood. Using NSAIDs after surgery may prolong the bleeding time associated with the surgery.

  • Kidney problems: especially if used in combination with diuretics (water tablets) and ACE inhibitors (blood pressure medication), NSAIDs can inhibit the kidney’s function.

  • Heart health: there is some evidence that NSAIDs can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.

How to be safe with NSAIDs?

The best way to ensure that you are not at risk of some of the serious side-effects of NSAIDs is to ensure you only use the medications when they are necessary, and do not use them for longer than they are necessary. It is advised that you discuss with your doctor how long you should take the medication and at what dose.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.


MedicineNet. 2018. NSAIDs: Drug List, Names, and Side Effects. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/nonsteroidal_antiinflammatory_drugs/article.htm. [Accessed 28 May 2018].

US Food and Drug Administration. 2007. Medication Guide for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm089162.pdf [Accessed 28 May 2018)

American College of Rheumatology. 2017. NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.[ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rheumatology.org/Portals/0/Files/NSAIDs-Nonsteroidal-Anti-Inflammatory-Drugs-Fact-Sheet.pdf [Accessed 28 May 2018)

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