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Ibuprofen - What You Need to Know

Popular NSAID Used to Manage Arthritis

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Updated July 10, 2013

Ibuprofen is one of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to treat certain types of arthritis. Ibuprofen was approved by the FDA as a prescription medication in 1974. A nonprescription formulation of ibuprofen was approved in 1984.

Availability and Recommended Dosing of Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is currently available in lower strengths as an over-the-counter drug -- and at higher strengths by prescription only. There are brand name and generic versions of ibuprofen. The drug comes as an oral capsule, oral suspension, chewable oral tablet, and oral tablet.

For arthritis, adults and teenagers are prescribed between 1,200 to 3,200 mg a day, in divided doses that are taken three or four times a day. For children 6 months to 12 years of age, the dose is based on body weight and should be determined by your doctor. For infants younger than 6 months of age, your doctor will determine if the use of ibuprofen is appropriate.

As a prescription drug, the maximum amount of ibuprofen for adults is 800 mg per single dose or 3,200 mg per day (4 maximum doses). Over-the-counter limits are less, with a maximum daily dose of 1200 mg. The smallest amount of ibuprofen needed to get relief from pain, swelling, or fever is recommended. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate dose for you and can adjust your dosage based on your response.

When Ibuprofen Is Prescribed

Ibuprofen is used to reduce fever and treat pain or inflammation associated with headache, toothache, back pain, arthritis, menstrual cramps, or minor injury.

Special Instructions

Many doctors instruct patients to take ibuprofen with food or milk to reduce stomach irritation. Other resources suggest taking it with a full glass of water. If stomach upset occurs, consult your doctor. He may recommend that you take an antacid.

Patients Who Should Not Take Ibuprofen

Patients who had episodes of asthma, rhinitis, or nasal polyps after taking aspirin or other NSAIDs should not take ibuprofen. Aspirin-sensitive patients should not take ibuprofen.

Be sure your doctor knows about any previous drug reactions. Patients who have had ulcers, stomach bleeding, severe kidney problems, or severe liver problems may not be candidates for treatment with ibuprofen. The drug should also not be taken before or after coronary bypass surgery.

Common Side Effects

Diarrhea, constipation, gas, mouth sores, headache, dizziness, thirst, lightheadedness, drowsiness, tingling in arms and legs, cold symptoms, ringing in the ears, hearing problems, and trouble falling or staying asleep are all possible side effects associated with ibuprofen.

Special Warnings and Precautions Associated With Ibuprofen

Problems with stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding can occur with any NSAID, including ibuprofen. Typically, these problems are tied to long-term use of the drug but not always -- short-term use of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs can be problematic for some patients. Stomach ulcers and bleeding can occur without warning. Some people do get signs and warnings by experiencing burning stomach pain, black stools, or vomiting. Call your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Liver damage can occur in people taking NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Warning signs include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, appetite loss, itching, yellowing of the skin or eyes, and dark urine.

Ibuprofen can cause fluid retention and swelling in the body. NSAIDs like ibuprofen have also been linked to increased blood pressure.

NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, are associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, and new onset or worsening of pre-existing hypertension (high blood pressure). The cardiovascular risk may be increased with duration of use of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs or pre-existing cardiovascular risk factors or disease.

Drug Interactions Associated With Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen can have serious adverse reactions with certain drugs. Drugs which can cause interactions include:

Special Instructions for Pregnant or Nursing Women

If you are pregnant, especially if you are in the last few months of your pregnancy, or you plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding, consult your doctor before using ibuprofen.

Signs of Overdose With Ibuprofen

As with any medication, there can be severe consequences of taking excessive doses of ibuprofen. Overdose of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs can cause nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal bleeding. Other serious potential consequences of overdose include kidney and liver damage, meningitis, circulatory collapse and even death. Be sure to take ibuprofen only as directed.

Sources:

Ibuprofen Drug Facts. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed July 19, 2009.
http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/ucm125223.pdf

Ibuprofen. PDRHealth. Accessed July 19, 2009.
http://www.pdrhealth.com/drugs/otc/otc-mono.aspx?contentFileName=DNX0161.xml&contentName=IBUPROFEN+PMR&contentId=2645.

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