We have all heard of ‘Aspirin’! It is one of the most commonly used drugs. But, most of us are unaware of the purpose it serves and the side effects of its overdose.
Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a salicylate drug. It is mostly used as an analgesic or painkiller. The active ingredient in aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid, which is a synthetic derivative of salicin compound. This compound is found naturally in plants, particularly the willow tree. It is the oldest andwidely used analgesic available in the market. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which can be used to treat mild to moderate aches or pains. Some of them muscle aches, toothaches and headaches. It also treats ailments like common cold, fever and inflammation. There are coated and uncoated aspirins available in the market. The coated or enteric coated aspirin has a shiny and smooth layer over the tablet, whereas the non- coated one has a rough surface. The coated tablets prevent stomach upset and discomfort that aspirin causes in some people. Aspirin can delay the pain for 3 to 4 hours as it dissolves in the small intestine instead of the stomach.
It has been found that Aspirin has many other uses besides pain relief or fever reduction. Few of the other benefits of aspirin are: reduction of inflammation and swelling in injuries and arthritis. It is often given to patients for quick recovery after cardiovascular surgery. Many studies have found that its use reduces the risk of several types of cancers, such as colon, esophagus, stomach, rectum, and prostate cancer. Aspirin has an anti-platelet or anticoagulant effect, which prevents blood clotting in the body. That is why, aspirin in low doses or baby aspirin are used to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Aspirin should be taken with food or milk to avoid stomach irritation. The daily dosage of aspirin ranges from 50 mg to 6000 mg, depending upon the use. The table given below shows the recommended dosage of aspirin in case of different health conditions.
|Health Condition||Recommended Dosage|
|Mild to moderate pain||350 or 650 mg every 4 hours or 500 mg. every 6 hours|
|Rheumatoid arthritis||500 mg. every 4-6 hours; 650 mg. every 4 hours; 1000 mg every 4-6 hours; 1950 mg twice|
|Heart attacks and strokes||81, 162 or 325 mg. daily|
15 Side Effects Of Aspirin:
Regardless of its long years of use and beneficial effects, aspirin has certain side effects, which can cause mild to severe health complications. So, it is advisable to use it after consulting your doctor. Some of the side effects of asprin are:
1. Heartburn Or Stomach Irritation:
Irritating the stomach lining, aspirin can cause heartburn and stomach irritations, such as nausea, vomiting and indigestion. These are the common side effects of aspirin, but they may lead to serious problems. So, it is advisable to consult your doctor if you are facing such issues.
2. Allergic Reactions:
Some people experience aspirin sensitivity or allergy. Allergic reactions may comprise of swelling of the lips, tongue, nose, itchy nose, breathing problems, dizziness and hives. If you notice any of the above symptoms, consult your doctor.
3. Pregnant Or Nursing Women:
Aspirin is harmful to the unborn fetus. It may cause heart problems, reduce birth weight or cause other serious effects on the unborn baby. Therefore, pregnant women should consult their physician regarding its intake. Nursing women should also avoid taking aspirin because it can pass into breast milk and harm the child’s health.
4. Harmful In Surgeries:
The use of aspirin before any type of surgery, should be avoided as it possesses blood thinning or anti-coagulant property. Taking aspirin before surgery may lead to excess or long term bleeding.
5. Liver Problems:
Excess and prolonged use of aspirin can harm your liver. The liver works as a detoxifier. So, high doses of aspirin can lead to its dysfunction, which can cause some serious health problems.
6. Kidney Failure:
Regular use of aspirin can cause analgesic nephropathy. It is an injury of the kidney, which is caused by analgesic medications. Sometimes kidney diseases occur without any symptoms and can lead to kidney failure.
7. Reye’s Syndrome In Children And Teenagers:
Reye syndrome is a serious condition, which can cause death by damaging vital organs, mostly the liver and brain. What is primarily disturbing about this syndrome is that its cause is not known yet. This syndrome occurs in children who have been taking aspirin for flu, chicken pox, fever or for pain relief. Parents should avoid giving aspirin to their children without consulting their physician as the consequences can be serious. Changes in behavior with nausea and vomiting are early symptoms of Reye’s syndrome.
8. Hemorrhagic Stroke:
We all know that aspirin is used to prevent heart attacks and strokes as it works as a blood thinner in the body. But, its use may lead to several serious health issues. Some of them are strokes caused due to brain bleeding. The blood thinning effects of aspirin can worsen the condition leading to brain damage and hemorrhage.
9. Tinnitus And Hearing Damage:
The word Tinnitus means ‘ringing’. It is a condition, characterized by noise or ringing in ears. It may be caused by regular intake of aspirin. One should consult a doctor in case of any such problem as it can lead to permanent hearing damage.
Those suffering from asthma should avoid the use of aspirin as it may act as a trigger factor. Asthma attacks caused by aspirin may be severe to fatal. So, use aspirin with caution and under the strict supervision of your physician.
11. Skin Problems:
Bruising is one of the most common skin problems caused by aspirin. When capillaries become weak or damaged by medications like aspirin, it causes bruising. The bruises may even give way to bleeding in certain cases as aspirin inhibits the blood vessels from healing quickly. Sometimes, the use of aspirin with other supplement medications can cause skin reactions like red, swollen, blistered or discolored skin. Quick medical attention is required if any of these skin reactions occur.
12. Gout Attacks:
Aspirin in low doses is used to prevent heart attacks and strokes, but it can worsen your condition if you suffer from gout. Even in low doses, aspirin increases the risk of gout attacks. High doses of aspirin prevent the kidney to reabsorb uric acid, which causes uric acid excretion through urine, whereas low doses inhibit the uric acid excretion. Gout patients should consult their doctors before taking aspirin to avoid complications.
13. Stomach And Small Intestine Ulcers:
As stated earlier, bleeding is one of the serious side effects of taking aspirin. It can cause stomach or small intestinal injury, which may give rise to ulcers. Sometimes the bleeding caused by ulcers can be serious.
14. High Blood Pressure:
Being a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), aspirin may increase your blood pressure level. Those having high blood pressure should use it only after consulting their physician.
15. Harmful Effect On Central Nervous System:
Regular use of aspirin causes drowsiness, confusion, and dizziness in some people. Though these are not serious side effects, they should not be ignored as they may lead to long-term effects on the nervous system.
The various side effects of Aspirin necessitate the need to exercise caution in its intake and dosage. The correct dosage is the key to reap the benefits and avoid the side effects of this drug. Most of us are in the habit of taking this medication to get relief from minor pain without realizing its adverse effects. Always remember, all medication should be taken under strict guidance and instructions of your physician or health care provider. Given below are certain precautions that should be kept in my mind while using aspirin.
- As already stated, this medication should not be used in case of certain health conditions. Those having bleeding or blood-clotting disorders like hemophilia, Vitamin K deficiency, or low platelet count should take medical advice before using it.
- Those with aspirin-sensitive asthma, growth in the nose like nasal polyps, enzyme deficiencies and gout should also exercise caution in its intake.
- This medication, when combined with alcohol or tobacco on a daily basis may increase the risk of stomach bleeding. If you are taking this medication, you should limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages and stop smoking.
- Those taking this medication should inform their doctor about it before undergoing any surgery.
- Aspirin should not be taken in the last 3 months of pregnancy as it may cause harm to the unborn baby and problems during delivery.
- Older adults, being more sensitive to the side effects, need to exercise care, particularly in case of stomach or intestinal bleeding and ulcers.
Aspirin is a blessing! Being free of all those niggling pains and cramps enables us to go through life pain free. Don’t allow this blessing to turn into a nightmare. Use aspirin only in the recommended dosage. Always consult your doctor before you pop a pill, and you will be fine!