When it comes to medicines for relieving pain, NSAIDs are the most common option. Most of them are over-the-counter drugs that can be obtained without a doctor’s prescription. Let’s find out how NSAIDs work, through this HealthHearty write-up.
Word of Caution!
Never take over-the-counter NSAIDs for any reason like common cold or pain relief, for more than 3 days.
Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, abbreviated as NSAIDs, are drugs that provide analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory effects on the body, and are non-narcotic. They are largely used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, bursitis, pain caused by gout, muscle ache, backache, toothache, and pain caused by menstrual cramps. NSAIDs are also commonly used to relieve the symptoms caused due to common cold, like low-grade fever and minor body aches.
No doubt the benefits are numerous, but not without some side effects. Therefore, HealthHearty has come up with an excerpt on how these little pills work in our body, when ingested.
What Do Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs Do?
NSAIDs work like corticosteroids (also known as steroids), but without the side effects of steroids. Steroids are man-made medicines that resemble cortisone. Cortisone is a naturally-occurring hormone that reduces the pain and inflammation associated with injuries, and long-standing joint and muscle diseases like arthritis. In brief, NSAIDs mimic cortisone, without the side effect of steroids.
NSAIDs work on a chemical level in the body, by blocking inflammation-forming chemicals, i.e., prostaglandins. Inflammation is caused as the body’s response to irritation or injury. It generally manifests as redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. When an injury occurs, the area gets inflamed due to increased blood flow, concentration of white blood cells, presence of extra fluids, and release of certain chemicals. When all these start acting on the site of the injury, we experience swelling with pain.
Prostaglandins are produced within the body by the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme. These cyclooxygenases are of two types, COX-1 and COX-2. The stomach contains the COX-1 enzyme, while COX-2 is present in the white blood cells. COX-2 is mainly responsible for producing prostaglandins, involved in pain and inflammation.
NSAIDs simply block the COX enzymes, and therefore, stop the body from making prostaglandins. If prostaglandins are less, pain and swelling will also be less. Most NSAIDs function by blocking both the COX enzymes. Some over-the-counter NSAIDs include: Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Ketoprofen, and Naproxen. Prescription NSAIDs include: Daypro, Indocin, Lodine, Naprosyn, Relafen, and Voltaren.
It is seen that Aspirin is not only a pain reliever but also works against the formation of clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes. No other NSAID has this kind of effect.
Normally, NSAIDs do not cause any side effects if taken for a short period of time and then discontinued. And if some side effects are experienced, they are minor ones like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headache, drowsiness, and decreased appetite. But for those who need regular pain relief, there can be some serious side effects like kidney failure, stomach ulcers, and bleeding in the stomach.
NSAIDs need to be prescribed by a medical practitioner only, especially for prolonged use. You should never self-diagnose or should never increase or decrease the doses yourself. If you consume alcohol regularly, then it should be properly conveyed to the doctor, before he/she prescribes these medicines to you.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.