Think that taking over the counter ibuprofen is completely harmless to get rid of your minor aches and pains? Think again. Here are eight things you never knew about ibuprofen:

Ibuprofen belongs to a class of medications called non-steroidal antiinflammatory medications (NSAIDS). This class of drugs includes aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a common over the counter pain relief medication. In fact, it was one of the first prescription drugs that was marketed for over the counter use going back to 1984.  Although the drug is incredibly popular, there are some things to be aware of when taking this medication. Some of them you may know, others you may not know.

Things You Should Know About Ibuprofen

1. IBUPROFEN HAS THREE MAIN USES

Ibuprofen has three main actions of use. This medication has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic properties. Which means it reduces inflammation whether it’s from an injury or illness, reduces fevers, and reduces the amount of sensitivity your body has to pain. Labeled uses for ibuprofen include fevers and reducing pain associated with chronic and symptomatic rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, myalgia, headaches, dental pain, and painful menstruation.

2. IBUPROFEN WORKS GREAT FOR KIDNEY STONES

Kidney stones can be a traumatic painful event. Anyone who has had a kidney stone will tell you that it’s some of the most unbearable pain they have ever had. A kidney stone causes a significant amount of inflammation and trauma to the urinary tract as it passes. Ibuprofen can work great to reduce the pain caused by kidney stones. In fact, it can be a great adjunct to other medications like Norco (Vicodin).

3. IBUPROFEN CAN BE INCREDIBLY HARSH ON YOUR STOMACH

Some people to take ibuprofen regularly for some types of chronic arthritic pain. However, unless your doctor has prescribed it you should be cautious about taking ibuprofen regularly. One of the ways that ibuprofen works is by blocking something in the body called COX-1. Unfortunately this same Cox-1 enzyme can cause increased digestive acids in the stomach and decreased mucous in the stomach. Mucous in the stomach is important at protecting the lining of the intestines and stomach from the harsh acids. With increased acids and decreased mucous it’s easier for your stomach or intestines to get bleeding ulcers. Notify your doctor if you have bloody or black tarry stool or bloody vomit right away.

4. IBUPROFEN CAN INCREASE THE RISK OF HEART ATTACKS OR STROKES

Ibuprofen has a slight anti-platelet effect similar to that of aspirin. This keeps your blood cells from clumping together. However, there’s one component of ibuprofen that acts on a COX-2 enzyme in your body. COX-2 can lead to an enzyme produced called prostacyclin. Prostacyclin dilaites your blood vessels, keeps blood platelets from sticking to each other, and produces an in crease in pain and inflammation.  Ibuprofen blocks that response. When this response is blocked it can cause an increase in blood pressure and increase the risk for heart attack and stroke by increasing how your blood cells stick to each other.

Because ibuprofen can causes your blood vessels to constrict it can make some diuretics, ACE-inhibitors, and beta-blockers (blood pressure medications) less effective.

5. YOU SHOULDN’T DRINK ALCOHOL IF TAKING IBUPROFEN REGULARLY

As I mentioned earlier, ibuprofen can irritate the stomach lining and cause bleeding and ulcers. Well, alcohol can also irritate the stomach lining and cause bleeding and ulcers. The risk for stomach and intestinal bleeding while drinking regularly and frequent use of ibuprofen can compound the risk of stomach bleeds.

6. THOSE WITH LIVER ISSUES AND KIDNEY DISEASE SHOULD BE LEERY OF IBUPROFEN USE

Ibuprofen is metabolized by the liver and excreted by the kidneys. If either of these organs aren’t working well ibuprofen can build up in the body. Increased levels of ibuprofen higher then recommended amounts can increase adverse effects of the medication and also cause kidney damage.

7. DON’T TAKE IBUPROFEN ON AN EMPTY STOMACH

Stomach cramping and nausea are one of the most common side effects of ibuprofen. To reduce the amount of irritability that ibuprofen can cause on the stomach, take it with a snack.

8. IF YOU’RE PREGNANT, SKIP IBUPROFEN

Even though ibuprofen is a class B medication during the first two trimesters, some studies have shown that women who take ibuprofen are more likely to have a miscarriage. Ibuprofen is a class D medication in the third trimester. It is not recommended for anyone greater than twenty-eight weeks pregnant.  Talk to your health provider to see other alternatives for pain or fever relief during pregnancy.

Sources:

Adams, M., et. al. “Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs.” Pharmacology: Connections To Nursing Practice. New Jersey: Pearson. pp 720-726. 2010