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What are side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

NSAIDs can have serious side effects on the digestive system and are usually not recommended for continuous use for more than 1 to 2 weeks. People taking them for longer periods, especially older people, usually take a drug to protect their stomach. Celecoxib (Celebrex) is a special type of NSAID that is less likely to harm the digestive system. It is sometimes prescribed for people who can't take other NSAIDs. But it is also not recommended for long-term treatment.

Side effects may include heartburn, abdominal pain, nausea, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. NSAIDs may also cause headaches, ringing in the ears, itching, rashes, and swelling in the hands or feet. They increase the risk of bleeding, ulceration, or perforation of the stomach or intestines, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke, which can be fatal. The risk of side effects of NSAIDs is greater in older people. If you are over 65, you should not take indomethacin, and you should avoid long-term use of any NSAID. 

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition, or find a doctor. 

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be bought over the counter or in stronger prescription doses. This type of drug includes pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Using NSAIDs can cause side effects including bruising, damage to the liver and kidneys, stomach ulcers and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Even over-the-counter varieties of NSAIDS carry these risks, so it is important to consult your doctor if you use them regularly.

Possible risks of all nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include stomach problems like bleeding, ulcer and stomach upset; high blood pressure; fluid retention (causing swelling, such as around the lower legs, feet, ankles and hands); kidney problems; heart problems; and rashes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.