Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are widely used to provide pain relief, whether from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle sprain or strain or even severe menstrual cramps. Medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve) are available over the counter, but you might get a prescription for drugs such as celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) or meloxicam (Mobic), to name just a few. As helpful as these medicines can be, they can also cause troublesome side effects. They are well known to irritate the digestive tract and cause ulcers. In addition, they increase your chances of cardiovascular complications. Will they also harm your kidneys?
Could Diclofenac Gel Harm Your Kidneys?
Q. I am especially sensitive to NSAIDs because of impaired kidney function. My doctor prescribed diclofenac gel for a muscle injury. Am I absorbing enough of this product to be harmful?
A. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen can be hard on the kidneys. The official prescribing information for diclofenac warns that long-term administration could cause renal injury.
It is not clear whether you would absorb enough diclofenac from a topical gel to harm your kidneys. This is best determined by frequent monitoring. Ask your doctor to check your kidney function carefully.
A few readers report kidney damage as a side effect of NSAIDs, but all were taking oral medications and not using a topical gel.
Jim H. wrote:
“I suffered kidney damage from extended use of ibuprofen. Uva ursi tea daily for a year with no NSAID helped restore normal function.”
“I took prescribed naproxen and Lortab together by mistake, and now I have stage 3 kidney failure. My nephrologist and urologist said nothing could be done. Apparently it messed up the lining of the kidney.”
“My husband has been under the care of a nephrologist for many years. His kidneys now function at 20% and he is too old for dialysis. The nephrologist believes his kidney deterioration was caused by taking Aleve (naproxen) for arthritis pain for many years.”
If you are looking for a nondrug approach to easing the pain of arthritis or a muscle strain, you will find some helpful ideas in our online Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.