Gastrointestinal disorders are the most common adverse reactions reported by patients taking NSAIDs, according to the Hospital for Specialized Surgery (HSS) in New York.
Before we get any further, know that your family member should stop using NSAIDs and call a doctor immediately if they have black, tarry stool or any blood in their stool after a bowel movement. Those are significant symptoms.
However, many elderly ones in Riverdale and throughout the greater New York area rely on NSAIDs for pain relief. In this article, we will:
- Defines and discusses common NSAIDs.
- Describe the likelihood that your family member will suffer from gastrointestinal disorders.
- Provide advice for reducing stomach troubles.
- Explain when a family caregiver should call the doctor.
Let’s start with an understanding of NSAIDs.
What are NSAIDs?
Per HSS, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a group of drugs prescribed to reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. However, some require a prescription. Whereas, others we can purchase over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription.
Common examples include:
- Motrin, Advil (Ibuprofen)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
But there are many others.
Most patients tolerate NSAIDs very well. That’s good news. These medications can be beneficial for older adults with pain and inflammation. Generally, side effects are minor and can be managed by discontinuing the drug or adding a prescription to counter the effects. The risk of serious side effects is small. Still, you should be aware of more serious gastrointestinal problems, like ulcers.
Selective & Nonselective Inhibitors
NSAIDs are divided into two groups: selective and nonselective inhibitors, based on the enzymes they target.
HSS says there are two enzymes (chemicals in our bodies) NSAIDs may block:
- COX-1 is a protein we find in most of our body tissues.
- One of its functions is to protect the stomach from ulcers.
- COX-2 is a protein that causes joint inflammation, particularly among patients with arthritis.
COX-2 inhibitors inhibit (block) the COX-2 enzyme. They’re called “selective inhibitors” because they only block the COX-2 protein and not COX-1. It’s the lack of a COX-1 protein that causes many gastrointestinal issues. However, we sometimes solve these issues with a prescription for a selective inhibitor.
Both selective and nonselective NSAIDs can ease pain and inflammation. However, gastrointestinal issues are a common side effect. Ankle swelling is common, too. In addition, some patients experience cardiovascular (heart-related) side effects.
Note that the list of NSAIDs does not include opioid painkillers, such as like morphine and codeine. Those painkillers work differently.
Typical Stomach Troubles Among Seniors (and How to Defeat Them)
As mentioned above, gastrointestinal problems are the most common side effects of NSAIDs. Stomach irritation is usually the cause. Many patients describe the sensations known as “heartburn.”
In severe cases, NSAIDs can irritate the lining of your loved one’s stomach. This results in an ulcer (a small, open sore in the digestive tract) forming. In the worst cases, those ulcers lead to internal bleeding. This can be life-threatening. Again, if your family member is experiencing severe abdominal pain, black, tarry or bloody stools, stop taking NSAIDs and seek medical help right away.
How to Reduce Gastrointestinal Problems
To reduce gastrointestinal irritation and prevent an ulcer:
- Take NSAIDs as prescribed, or less often. However, never take them more often than prescribed.
- Administer the medication after eating a full meal.
- Take them with an antacid, like Tums.
Also, limit the adult beverages. Alcohol is a known stomach irritant.
If your senior family member still experiences gastrointestinal problems, their doctor may prescribe a COX-2 selective inhibitor.
Caring for Your Loved One: the Family Challenge
Family caregivers may feel uneasy speaking with their loved ones about the appearance of their stools. We understand! Remember, older generations were taught to be very private — or even ashamed — of their body functions. They may not feel comfortable talking to an adult child or grandchild about their symptoms. But they’ll speak to professionals about them. Are you concerned that your loved one is suffering silently from gastrointestinal issues? If so, explain that these symptoms can be life-threatening. Then, allow the professionals at The David York Home Healthcare Agency to help you have this conversation.
David York Agency Home Healthcare Helps Seniors in New York
At David York Agency, we understand the many challenges and risks faced by the aging and elderly and are dedicated to providing care to support them through all of those ups and downs. At David York Home Healthcare Agency, extraordinary service is what sets us apart from other companies in New York that provide in-home healthcare services.
DYA provides direction as to how to manage the total care of your senior loved one. Whatever your care needs, we are there for you, always striving to exceed your expectations. For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at (718) 376-7755. A free phone consultation can help you determine what services would meet your needs. We aim to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.
For more helpful tips and information, check out our blog or contact us today.