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Ibuprofen is commonly used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis, fever, and menstrual and other types of pain.
It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and also has an antiplatelet effect, which means it protects from blood clots.
Ibuprofen brand names include Brufen, Calprofen, Genpril, Ibu, Midol, Nuprin, Cuprofen, Nurofen, Advil, and Motrin, among others.
When buying medication at a pharmacy, the packaging will state whether a product contains ibuprofen.
Fast facts on ibuprofen
Here are some key points about ibuprofen. More detail is in the main article.
- Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
- It is widely used to relieve symptoms of pain, fever, and inflammation.
- People with heart problems, stroke, or peptic ulcers should use it with care.
- It should not be used in the last 3 months of pregnancy.
- It is considered a non-addictive alternative to opioid painkillers.
Ibuprofen is an NSAID, a type of medication with analgesic, fever-reducing, and, in higher doses, anti-inflammatory effects.
The World Health Organization (WHO) includes ibuprofen in a list of the minimum medical needs for a basic healthcare system known as its “Essential Drugs List.”
A non-steroidal drug is not a steroid. Steroids often have similar effects, but long-term use can cause severe adverse effects. Most NSAIDs are non-narcotic, so they do not cause insensibility or stupor.
Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are all well-known NSAIDs, partly because they are available over the counter (OTC) from pharmacies.
Ibuprofen works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, substances that the body releases in response to illness and injury.
Prostaglandins cause pain and swelling, or inflammation. They are released in the brain, and they can also cause fever.
Ibuprofen’s painkilling effects begin soon after taking a dose. The anti-inflammatory effects can take longer, sometimes several weeks.
Ibuprofen is not suitable for people who:
- are sensitive to aspirin or any other NSAID
- have, or have had, a peptic ulcer
- have severe heart failure
They call on people to be aware of this possible problem and to seek medical attention at once if they experience chest pain, breathing problems, sudden weakness in one part or one side of the body, or sudden slurred speech.
It should be used with caution if a person has, or has had:
- liver problems
- kidney problems
- mild heart failure
- hypertension, or high blood pressure
- angina, heart attacks (ischemic heart disease)
- narrowing of the arteries, known as peripheral arterial disease
- coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery
- any experience of stomach bleeding
Patients should check with a doctor or a qualified pharmacist if they are unsure.
Possible adverse effects
The most common adverse effects of ibuprofen include:
- dyspepsia, involving upper abdominal pain, bloating, and indigestion
- pain in the stomach or intestines
Also possible, but less common, are:
- edema, or fluid retention
- hypertension, or high blood pressure
- stomach inflammation
- ulcers in the digestive system
- worsening asthma symptoms
Anyone who feels dizzy after taking ibuprofen should not drive or operate machinery.
Very rarely, a person may experience bleeding in the stomach, signs of which are:
- malaena, or black stools
- hematemesis, or vomiting with blood
Long-term use can lead to reduced fertility in some women, but this problem should stop soon after finishing treatment.
The United States (U. S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that some people may be allergic to the ingredients of ibuprofen.
Allergic symptoms include:
- hives, red skin, blistering, or a rash
- facial swelling
- asthma and wheezing
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should stop using the drug.
In severe cases, anaphylactic shock may occur. The person will have difficulty breathing. This is life-threatening and needs immediate medical attention.
Ibuprofen should not be used in the last 3 months of pregnancy unless definitely directed to do so by a doctor, as it may affect the fetus or lead to problems during delivery.
Ask a health professional before using any medication while pregnant or breast-feeding.
Is ibuprofen addictive?
While this is not considered an addiction, it can create an annoying cycle that can be hard to break. Regular users of ibuprofen should be mindful of this.
Sometimes, one medication can interfere with the effects of another. This is known as drug interaction.
Drugs that may interact with ibuprofen include:
Antihypertensive medications: Drugs taken for high blood pressure, or hypertension. Ibuprofen can sometimes lead to a rise in blood pressure if used alongside antihypertensives.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers: Ibuprofen should not be taken with diclofenac (Voltarol), indometacin, or naproxen because there is an increased risk of stomach bleeding. Ibuprofen should not be necessary with these drugs, as they are already painkillers.
Aspirin: Ibuprofen and aspirin taken together significantly raise the risk of stomach bleeding. Patients taking low-dose aspirin for blood thinning should not take ibuprofen because the blood thinning effect will be diminished.
Digoxin: This is often used to treat atrial fibrillation. Ibuprofen and digoxin together can raise blood pressure levels.
Lithium: This drug is used for some mental disorders. Ibuprofen can make it harder for the body to eliminate lithium, resulting in potentially dangerous levels of lithium in the body.
Methotrexate: This is used to treat cancer and some auto-immune diseases. Ibuprofen can make it harder for the body to eliminate methotrexate. Potentially hazardous levels of methotrexate may build up in the body.
Tacrolimus: This drug is mainly used after an organ transplant, to stop the body’s immune system rejecting the new organ. Ibuprofen with tacrolimus can cause kidney damage.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): This type of antidepressant drugs, such as citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine and sertraline, taken with ibuprofen can increase the risk of bleeding.
Warfarin: An anticoagulant drug, or blood thinner, that stops the blood from clotting. Ibuprofen taken with warfarin can reduce the drug’s anticoagulant effects.
Anyone who is taking these or other medications should ask their doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to use ibuprofen.
As long as users adhere to the guidelines, ibuprofen can be used safely in a number of settings. It is not habit-forming or addictive.
Severe adverse effects normally occur only with long-term use.
In the face of the current opioid overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge doctors and patients to consider non-opioid drugs, such as ibuprofen, before moving on to opioids as a treatment for pain.
Ibuprofen is available as gels, sprays, tablets or mousses, and it is used to relieve a variety of symptoms.
- back pain
- arthritis, including juvenile arthritis
- menstrual main
- minor injuries
For a headache, usage is short term. For anti-inflammatory effects related to chronic conditions, such as arthritis, long-term use is necessary.
Some medications, such as decongestants, have ibuprofen added, to create, for example, a combined cold or flu remedy.
Ibuprofen is available in tablet form, in syrups, and as an intravenous (IV) preparation. Taking the correct dosage is important for avoiding or reducing any side effects.
Dosage depends on the reason for taking ibuprofen and the age of the user.
For adults using it for rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, the dosage is 1,200 milligrams (mg) to 3,200 mg orally per day in divided doses.
The patient must be monitored for adverse effects, and the dose should be adjusted so that the patient takes the smallest possible amount to meet their treatment goals.
The usual adult dose for pain is 200 mg to 400 mg by mouth, every 4 to 6 hours, or 400 to 800 mg IV every 6 hours as needed. The maximum dose in one day is 3,200 mg.
Ibuprofen and children
Pediatric ibuprofen can be given for pain relief, inflammation, and to control fever, as well as for juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Children’s doses are lower than those for adults. The dose will depend on the weight and age of the child, and the severity of the fever or other symptoms.
The child must be over 6 months of age and weigh at least 5 kilograms (kg).
Parents should consult the instructions in the packaging or check with a pharmacist or health care provider before giving ibuprofen or other drugs to children.
Ibuprofen is available for purchase online.