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Uses and Side Effects of Naproxen

Uses and Side Effects of Naproxen

Placed in the category of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, naproxen is often prescribed for treating fever, swelling, or stiffness. This HealthHearty write-up provides information on the uses and side effects of naproxen.
Smita Pandit
Did You Know?
Naproxen was sold under the trade name Naprosyn as a prescription drug since 1976. It was in 1994 that the Food and Drug Administration approved its use as an over-the-counter drug under the trade name Aleve.

Marketed under brand names such as Naprelan, Naprosyn, Anaprox, Aleve, Aflaxen, etc., naproxen is a derivative of proprionic acid. It is related to the arylacetic acid group of NSAIDs. As the name suggests, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen (Naprosyn, Anaprox), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and ketoprofen (Orudis KT, Actron) help reduce inflammation. Basically, they inhibit the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that are responsible for causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation is often a part of the healing process, but it can give rise to a host of symptoms such as pain, fever, swelling, etc. Like the other NSAIDs, naproxen also reduces inflammation, thereby providing relief. It is often prescribed for treating conditions that are characterized by inflammation. Besides being an analgesic, it also has antipyretic properties, which means that it can be taken to treat fever. It is available in the form of suspension tablets, enteric coated tablets, extended release tablets, and liquid-filled capsules.

What is Naproxen Used For?

Inflammation is the immune system's response to an injury or infection. It facilitates tissue repair and helps speed up the healing process. However, it can give rise to unpleasant symptoms. Under such circumstances, doctors prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for providing relief from such symptoms. Naproxen or other NSAIDs work by inhibiting or blocking cyclooxygenase (COX-1 and COX-2) enzymes that are responsible for the production of prostaglandins. More often than not, naproxen is prescribed for the following conditions:

Rheumatoid arthritis
Juvenile arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis
Sprains and strains
Back pain
Ankylosing spondylitis
Kidney stones
Menstrual cramps/Painful menstruation

While naproxen tablets and suspension are prescribed for the treatment of certain types of arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, or pain experienced during menstruation, nonprescription naproxen is used as a painkiller and antipyretic for reducing fever and relieving mild pain due to headaches, muscle aches, backache, toothache, menstrual periods, common cold, etc. It is often prescribed for long-term use in case of individuals who are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular complications. Unlike other NSAIDs, it is less likely to cause such complications.

Though the reduction in the production of prostaglandins due to naproxen usage helps alleviate fever, pain, or swelling, there can be adverse drug interactions. Therefore, this drug is contraindicated under certain circumstances. Therefore, inform your healthcare provider if:

You are allergic to naproxen or any ingredients used in naproxen
You are allergic to aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
You are pregnant or breastfeeding
You are trying to conceive
You are 65 years old or more (Dosage will be lower for the elderly)
You have hypertension
You are affected by a blood clotting disorder
You are affected by bronchial asthma or other breathing problems
You are affected by nasal polyps
You have been asked to follow a low-sodium diet
You are taking medicines for other medical conditions
You are affected by gastrointestinal bleeding
You have peptic ulcers or ulcers in the duodenum
You are affected by liver, kidney, or heart failure
You have recently undergone a surgery or are going to have a surgery


Inform the healthcare provider, if you are taking the following drugs:

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
Angiotensin II receptor antagonists/Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
Beta blockers
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
Sulfa drugs
Prednisone or other steroids
Other NSAIDs
Drugs for treating hypertension or heart problems

Side Effects

COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes are responsible for the production of prostaglandins within the body's cells. However, COX-1 has a beneficial effect of producing prostaglandins that support the blood clotting function and protect the lining of the stomach from the stomach acid. Since NSAIDs block the COX enzymes and reduce prostaglandins that protect the stomach lining and support blood clotting, the use of these drugs can cause ulcers in the stomach. This can give rise to bleeding. Other side effects that have been associated with the use of these drugs include:

Itchy skin
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Excessive thirst
Ringing in the ears

Some of the serious side effects include:

Changes in vision
Unexplained weight gain
Sore throat, fever, chills, and other signs of infection
Shortness of breath
Chest pain
Tarry stools
Reduced urine output
Back pain
Difficult or painful urination
Coughing up blood
Loss of appetite
Dark urine
Bruises or purple blotches under the skin
Fast heartbeat

Seek medical help immediately, in case of a severe allergic reaction that causes the following symptoms:

Swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or the face
Difficulty breathing or swallowing

It is extremely important to take the drug as per the prescribed dosage. While the extended-release tablets are usually taken once a day, the delayed-release tablets and suspension are usually taken twice a day by individuals affected by arthritis. The tablets and suspension are usually taken every 8 hours for gout, and every 6 to 8 hours as needed for pain. While prescription naproxen should be taken at the same time daily, nonprescription naproxen tablet and the gelatin-coated tablet can be taken every 8-12 hours with a glass of water, or as needed. It must be noted that untoward effects can occur in the event of an overdose. The symptoms of an overdose might include:

Extreme tiredness
Stomach pain
Slow or difficult breathing

On a concluding note, naproxen has been linked to the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding due to the reduced production of prostaglandins. In order to reduce the risk of bleeding, naproxen might be given with a proton-pump inhibitor (a drug that reduces the production of stomach acid), especially in case the patient has an existing stomach ulcer or there's a greater possibility of developing an ulcer while on NSAIDs. This drug must be stored in a cool, dry place, where it is out of the reach of children. If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as possible. However, don't double the dose to make up for the missed one. Do inform your healthcare provider about co-existing medical conditions or the drugs/nutritional supplements that you are taking. Seek medical assistance at the earliest, if you experience severe side effects.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.