Ibuprofen is a pain reliever used primarily for arthritis.
It may also be prescribed for menstrual cramps, bursitis, tendinitis, sprains, strains and other painful conditions. It belongs to a class of medications commonly called NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
It is now available generically (and over the counter), but previously it was one of the most popular arthritis drugs on the market under the brand name Motrin.
Ibuprofen may be prescribed generically or by brand names such as Children’s Advil, Ibu-Tab, Motrin or Rufen. It is also available without prescription under such names as Advil, Bayer Select Pain Relief, Medipren, Nuprin or Motrin IB, among others.
Side Effects and Interactions
Unquestionably the most common side effects of ibuprofen involve the gastrointestinal tract. They include nausea, indigestion, heartburn, cramps, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
Some people may develop ulcers and intestinal bleeding while taking this medication. Occasionally these problems can occur without obvious symptoms and lead to a life-threatening crisis due to perforation of the stomach lining. Older people appear to be more susceptible to this problem and should be monitored carefully.
Warning signs include weight loss, persistent indigestion, a feeling of fullness after moderate meals, dark or tarry stools, anemia and unusual fatigue.
Home stool tests such as Hemoccult or Fleet Detecatest may provide an early indication of bleeding.
Other side effects to be alert for include headache, ringing in the ears, rash, itching, nervousness, fluid retention and loss of appetite. Drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and confusion are possible, so do not drive if you become impaired.
Less common adverse reactions include insomnia, heart palpitations, hair loss, depression, tiredness, anemia or other blood changes, fever, visual disturbances, meningitis and sores in the mouth.
Some people might become sensitive to sunlight while on ibuprofen, so use an effective sunscreen or stay well covered. Report any symptoms to your physician promptly.
Ibuprofen can affect both the kidney and liver, so periodic blood tests to monitor the function of these organs are important for anyone on this drug long-term.
This medication can adversely interact with many other drugs. A person taking a blood thinner like Coumadin may become far more vulnerable to a dangerous bleeding ulcer.
Aspirin may reduce the effectiveness of ibuprofen for reducing inflammation.
All the NSAIDs, including ibuprofen, can make methotrexate (Folex, Mexate, Rheumatrex) and lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid, etc.) far more toxic.
Other potentially serious interactions may occur with ibuprofen reducing the effectiveness of ACE inhibitor blood pressure medicines such as Altace, Lotensin, or Vasotec, beta-blocker blood pressure drugs like Corgard, Inderal LA, or Tenormin, and diuretics such as Bumex, Dyazide, Lasix or Maxzide.
Hemorrhage with the combination of ginko and aspirin has been reported. We advise against combining arthritis medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.) with ginkgo biloba extract.
Licorice binds to serum albumin and may interact with medications that bind to serum albumin, such as ibuprofen.
Check with your pharmacist and physician to make sure ibuprofen is safe in combination with any other drugs or herbs you take.
Special Precautions with Ibuprofen
People who are allergic to aspirin or other anti-inflammatory agents should avoid ibuprofen.
Signs of allergy include breathing difficulties, rash, fever, or a sudden drop in blood pressure and require immediate medical attention.
Because this medication can be hard on the digestive tract, it may be taken with food to reduce tummy trouble. This does not guarantee, however, that the drug will be safe for the stomach. Alcohol may contribute to indigestion, ulcers and irritation and should be avoided.