The old saying is “no pain, no gain” meaning that you need to work if you want to succeed. Sometimes, eliminating our pain can lead to loss (in the sense that it can worsen our health)   In the Pharmacy world; there are a number of drugs that we can take to relieve our pain- both over the counter and prescription.  Some of these types of medications are the anti-inflammatories or more correctly, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).   There are over 20 different NSAIDs in Canada. Three of them, ASA (aspirin), Ibuprofen (Advil) and Naproxen (Aleve) can be bought over the counter without even asking your doctor or pharmacist.

These medications work well to reduce swelling and stop pain.  Unfortunately, they can have some serious side effects and affect other medications you may be using.  NSAIDs increase our risk of bruising and bleeding.  This is particularly a problem in patients who have a history of ulcers, take high doses or for long periods or are on other medications such as blood thinners.

For those of us with Kidney Disease, NSAIDs can be problematic. NSAIDs can worsen kidney function and can work against medications that may be beneficial to the kidneys such as those used to control blood pressure.  Taking NSAIDs can cause an increase in blood pressure and can also lead to fluid retention.  This can be a problem for those individuals with a weak heart already.

This can also be a problem for people who suffer from heart disease and stroke. It’s hard to know at which dose or length of use at which the heart risks of NSAIDs become relevant, but we do know that these drugs increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke particularly in those already at risk.

Many people feel that because these medications can be purchased without a prescription that they are safe.  For many of us, they serve a clear purpose- to relieve pain and inflammation.  For others, they pose a serious risk.  It’s always best to ask your doctor or pharmacist to see if these or any medications are best for you.  Take care of yourselves and each other.

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