Ulcers and stomach problems
It is estimated that more than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized each year from ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding linked to the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Even more alarming, between 15,000 and 20,000 Americans die each year from the same cause. The over-the-counter NSAID list includes aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve), but they also come in prescription form.
The risk to the heart and kidney
Use of NSAIDs can increase your blood pressure by reducing the flow of blood through the kidneys and slowing them down. When your kidneys are not working well, sodium builds up in your bloodstream, which can raise blood pressure. At the same time, your kidneys are being damaged and are at risk for failure. Some anti-inflammatories have also been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, which is why the popular arthritis drug, Vioxx, was removed from the market.
The risk of side effects is linked in part to the size and frequency of the dose, says David Pisetsky, MD, professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology and immunology at Duke University, which makes arthritis patients prime targets. Dr. Pisestky advises patients to take the drugs when needed, but not on a continual basis.