NSAIDs reduce inflammation, joint swelling and stiffness. They are often used to treat inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They can also relieve pain that is not controlled by analgesics alone. Some NSAIDs are available without a prescription, while others must be prescribed by a doctor.
There are many different types of NSAIDs available, such as naproxen and ibuprofen. There is a certain group of NSAIDs called COX-2 selective inhibitors (or Coxibs) that are slightly less likely to cause stomach problems.
NSAIDs stop the body producing substances (prostaglandins) that cause inflammation. This reduces symptoms such as pain and swelling. NSAIDs do not cure or have a long-term effect on your RA.
How are they used:
For some people your doctor will recommend that NSAIDs are only used when needed while for others they may recommend more regular use. In general, your NSAIDs are used at the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the best way to take NSAIDs for your RA and how to reduce the dose of NSAIDs if your pain has eased.
Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking NSAIDs as they may cause serious side effects. If you have problems with your blood pressure, kidneys or heart then the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure may be increased in a small number of people. One of the most serious side effects of NSAIDs is bleeding of the stomach and upper intestine. Signs of bleeding include stomach pain, blood in your stools (or dark stools) and coffee-coloured vomit. You should see your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these signs while taking NSAIDs. Even though some NSAIDs are available without prescription, your doctor can advise which of the NSAIDs and dosage are best for you.
For more detailed information on NSAIDs, including side-effects and precautions click here.
Important medicine tips
- Don’t take your NSAID if you are dehydrated, for example due to vomiting or diarrhoea, because it might increase the likelihood of side effects, particularly for children and elderly people. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
- If you develop swollen ankles, difficulty in breathing, chest pain, black stools or dark coffee-coloured vomit, stop taking your NSAID and tell your doctor immediately.
- Understand why you are taking the medicine and what the possible side effects are. Ask your pharmacist for the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine.
- Always read all medicine labels and take your medicines as directed. If you have any questions check with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Keep a personal record of all your medicines with you, including doses and allergies. This can be useful when you are talking to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines, including natural medicines, as some medicines cause problems if taken together.
- Do not share your medicines with friends or relatives – the medicines you are taking may be harmful to them.
CONTACT YOUR LOCAL ARTHRITIS OFFICE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ARTHRITIS AND SUPPORT SERVICES.