Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have received press in the past for their association with dangerous side effects among older adults compared to younger people. Many older people take NSAIDs to get relief from pain, stiffness, and inflammation. However, these medications can have side effects. If you are taking NSAIDs, check the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website for medication guide for more information.
Gastrointestinal problems, including stomach pain, ulcers, and bleeding of the stomach lining, are potential side effects among people who take NSAIDs on a regular basis. Often the first indication of gastrointestinal damage in seniors is bleeding, which can occur without the warning symptoms of nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or dyspepsia (indigestion and gas).
NSAIDs may create or worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms and complications. These may include:
The American College of Gastroenterology lists the following as key issues that may put a person taking NSAIDs at risk for GI problems:
If any of the following warning signs appear, contact your physician immediately:
Several studies found that problems with NSAIDs are not just stomach-related. Some problems that have been associated with regular NSAIDS include:
People at older ages usually need more medications, and sometimes at higher doses.
The following changes are a primary reason why drug doses for seniors are typically lower than those recommended for younger people:
Alliance for Aging Research
Canadian Public Health
The College of Canadian Family Physicians
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Pain and confusion: Figuring out how to safely treat pain. Alliance for Aging Research website. Available at:
Updated Spring 2010. Accessed September 4, 2013.
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Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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