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What are the risks of taking NSAIDs?

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NSAIDs can slightly increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, so they’re very unlikely to be prescribed if:

  • you have heart disease
  • you’ve had a heart attack or stroke
  • you have peripheral vascular disease (circulation problems in the limbs, usually in the legs).

Doctors are cautious about prescribing NSAIDs if you have an increased risk of heart disease. Your risk may be increased if:

  • you have high blood pressure
  • you have high cholesterol levels (hyperlipidaemia)
  • you have diabetes
  • you smoke.

Research into the links between NSAIDs, heart attacks and strokes is currently being carried out. You should also be aware of these risks with over-the-counter NSAIDs.

If your kidneys are not working as well as they should, your doctor may reduce the dose of NSAID you are given or even decide that they are best avoided. Your doctor may ask for a blood test to check how well your kidneys are working.

If you’re concerned about your medication or you need more information, talk to your doctor or rheumatology nurse specialist.

Will they affect vaccinations?

You can have vaccinations while on NSAIDs.

Can I drink alcohol while on NSAIDs?

You can drink alcohol in moderation, although alcohol and NSAIDs can both upset your stomach.

Do NSAIDs affect fertility or pregnancy?

Some studies have suggested an increased risk of miscarriage if NSAIDs are taken around the time of conception. This hasn't been proven, though you may wish to avoid NSAIDs if you've previously had trouble trying to get pregnant.

If you’re planning a family or you become pregnant, you should discuss your medications with your doctor as soon as possible. It's generally recommended that NSAIDs are stopped at the 32nd week of pregnancy, although low-dose aspirin may be continued throughout pregnancy.

Do NSAIDs affect breastfeeding?

Although NSAIDs may pass into the breast milk there's no evidence that it's harmful to your baby. Short-acting NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are preferable as there's a great deal of experience of safe use in breastfeeding mothers.

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