Ibuprofen, what you need to know

Arpan Doshi  I Dec 16 2016

Rated as the safest of its kind in the UK, Ibuprofen is a widely used and trusted medication. However, there are side effects which every Ibuprofen drug user must be aware of before starting to use this over-the-counter medication.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common type of pain killers used in the world. Ibuprofen, a type of NSAID discovered in 1961 as a ‘super aspirin’ works by inhibiting cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzymes preventing the synthesis of prostaglandins involved in production of pain, inflammation and fever.  

When to use Ibuprofen?

The recommended dose for adults is 300–600mg taken 3–4 times daily with maximum dose of no more than 2.4g in 24 hours. Usual daily dose should not exceed 1.2g.  Along with paracetamol it is a commonly used medication for mild to moderate pain, giving relief from migraines, dysmenorrhagia (period pain), dental pain or as a postoperative analgesia. It is also used as an antipyretic for flu, for post-immunisation fever and as an anti-inflammatory in rheumatic disease and other musculoskeletal disorders.

Research also states some additional advantages of this NSAID in the management of Patent ductus arteriosus (a frequent complication of premature infants), in reducing lung inflammation in cystic fibrosis, in treatment of severe orthostatic hypertension and even possible prophylaxis for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (yet to prove any conclusive evidence).

Precautions while using Ibuprofen:

Although popping this ‘super aspirin’ may seem like a great idea for quick pain relief, it does carry some serious side effects. The common side effects include nausea & vomiting, constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion, abdominal pain, headache, increased blood pressure or even an allergic reaction. However, the most significant side effect which the patients should be aware of is that it irritates the stomach lining, which may cause gastric ulcers leading to internal bleeding giving black stools and vomiting up blood.

 There have been recent episodes of patients using this painkiller for simple cold and having to end up to hospital from internal bleeding. All NSAIDs are associated with a small increased risk of thrombotic events such as stroke and myocardial infarction if taken regularly for a long period of time and can also make your asthma worse. It is advisable to speak to your GP before starting to use this medication specially if you are over 65 or have any heart, liver, kidney or connective tissue disease and are made aware of the interactions it has with any other drugs you might be taking.

Ibuprofen has several advantages and a go-to painkiller for most of us, it is important that we are aware of its side effects and seek help at once from either the GP or go to the emergency department if you have any worries

Any opinions above are the author's alone and may not represent those of the NHS or Mind and Medicine. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of sample surveyed. Online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice.