The People's Perspective on Medicine

Baby Aspirin Caused a Catastrophic Collapse

Aspirin has multiple benefits, but even low-dose baby aspirin can cause dangerous internal bleeding.

Every medicine has risks as well as benefits. Perhaps the best example of that is aspirin. It has multiple uses but can also cause severe internal bleeding, even at the low doses referred to as baby aspirin.

Cardiovascular Benefits:

This drug is more than a hundred years old, but scientists keep discovering new applications for aspirin beyond its original use to relieve pain and reduce fever. Low-dose aspirin has been recommended for people at high risk of a heart attack because it prevents blood clots. That’s also the reason that aspirin can be helpful for people with heart failure (New England Journal of Medicine, May 17, 2012).

Fighting Cancer:

Aspirin has also been found to have anti-cancer activity. One study of 60,000 women found that regular aspirin users were 21 percent less likely to develop melanoma (Cancer, online Mar. 11, 2013). Men could benefit, too: The Physicians’ Health Study found that men who took aspirin three times a week were about 25 percent less likely to be diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and 39 percent less likely to die from it. (This study was presented at a conference and has not been published yet.)

Nonetheless, aspirin can have very serious side effects (JAMA Internal Medicine, Feb. 13, 2012) and should never be taken for granted. This reader tells why:

Bleeding from Baby Aspirin Led to a Catastrophic Collapse:

Q. A friend of mine, a woman in her 50s, collapsed on the street in Canada with internal bleeding. Only because she was in a big city with quick responders and not out on her boat at sea is she alive today. The cause was the baby aspirin she was taking every day on her doctor’s advice. Even though aspirin may have benefits, it is a mistake to overlook its serious risks.

A. No one really understands why some people can tolerate large doses of aspirin without noticing problems while others may suffer potentially life-threatening bleeding ulcers on a very modest dose of this drug.

In the 1970s doctors were advised to prescribe as much as 6,000 mg of salicylate daily (18 aspirin tablets) for rheumatoid arthritis (The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 4th edition). But even a daily baby aspirin (81 mg) can lead to serious consequences such as your friend experienced.

That is why no one should take aspirin on a regular basis without medical supervision. We offer our free Guide to Key Aspirin Information so you can read more about the pros and cons.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I am in total confusion on the aspirin business. I had Quadruple By-Pass Surgery 20 months ago. No damage took place to my heart muscle which could have but I was close to the ER when some symptoms came about. They put me on so many drugs after surgery I can hardly remember them all. Now, however, I have been taken off almost everything except these: Losartan .25 mg lowest dose NOT for Blood pressure because I have never had high blood pressure, but for some unknown reason – just to be safe!! Also, I am on a baby aspirin .81 mg every other day!

Now I am hearing all kinds of things about aspirin. I am 80 years old and apparently in good health even though I was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. I am going to request going off of the Losartan totally, and when I get high blood pressure I can go on a blood pressure drug if needed. But the aspirin at my age leaves me in a confused state. Now they say the aspirin on a regular basis for healthy people should NOT be done for it could cause cardiac problems. But if you have had such, as I have had, then you need to take them. How can aspirin be bad for healthy people but good for sick people? It doesn’t make sense to me. What it did to healthy people it will do to sick people. Confusion. Also, they say only a small percentage can be helped by the aspirin at my age, so I don’t want to experience the bleeding in stomach or brain. I want to get off and take such supplements known to kick down inflammation and LDL levels such as Curcumin; Omega 3 PURE; Magnesium for starters. Why can’t that be done? Any thoughts from those who are really up on all of this today?

Well if do not take aspirin everyday, then you will have to take a blood thinner. They come with the same risk of bleeding. I have Afib and been taking aspirin for 5 years and so far no problems. I make sure a take my aspirin with food and plenty of water.

My 91 year old mother was put on an aspirin a day by her doctor She grew very weak and collapsed the fifth day. She was bleeding from the intestine and needed four units of blood and almost died.
She is still in rehab and has recovered totally almost. Her irregular heart beat also has gone away. Cardiologist says it was from the bleeding caused by the aspirin.

I had gastric bypass surgery six years ago. My weight loss doctor said no more aspirin or NSAIDS due to possibility of bleeding. My family doctor told me to take enteric baby aspirin due to a family history of heart disease (both mother and father), and that it would be okay. I decided that the enteric should be okay and began taking it once daily. After a few months, I got very ill with GI bleeding and was hospitalized for 4 days. Endoscopy showed a huge ulcer. No baby aspirin since then but now I have been prescribed Prevacid, and have worries about that!

EVERY Drug has side effects and possible GI distress is one that comes with Aspirin. But it certainly seems that the benefits FAR outweigh the possible risks for those that want to prevent the chance of TIA,stroke and or heart attack. The data is there .

Who would have guessed a little baby aspirin a day could be so dangerous. I found out the hard way and had no clue I was susceptible. Not the first time when for the first time I couldn’t digest food for about 6 weeks and on an oatmeal diet & digestive aids. Then after a few months when I was back to “normal” I foolishly started again, except this time the same symptom started after a couple of days. I was surprised and a couple of days after stopping the baby aspirin, the symptoms stopped. It was like my stomach was bubbling, growling and bloating. What could go wrong with 81 mg of this little amazing miracle pill?

For many years I was on 81 mg aspirin. Then in November 2015, an EKG showed I had atrial fibrillation (AFIB), so my primary care doctor changed the dose to 325 mg. After an echocardiogram and a 24 hour heart check wired to my chest positively showed I have AFIB, the cardiologist, through the nurse practitioner, changed the dosage to 2 81 mg daily. A followup 2 weeks later with another cardiologist was very informative as she drew a diagram of the heart and explained what AFIB is and does. She said my heart could be shocked and it would return to normal, but I’d have to take a strong blood thinner (?) for 3 months. Them she said AFIB would return in about a year. She suggested I try Diltiazem ER 120 mg, 1 nightly. It is a calcium blocker (?) that supposedly relaxes or loosens the arteries. So far I haven’t had any of the side effects associated with the med, and I don’t feel hardly any little shocks or blips in my chest. I asked why I went from 325 mg aspirin to 2 81 mg, and she said 325 could cause bleeding. So I suppose there is a good and bad to old faithful aspirin.

Your article says no one should take aspirin unless under medical supervision. The woman who collapsed was taking aspirin because her doctor told her to. It obviously does no good to do what the doctor advises since she would have died if she had been alone or without the aid of first responders. The article is contradictory.

My husband collapsed and went unconscious and it was due to severe internal bleeding. He’d been taking 2 full strength aspirin as needed on the advice of his Dr. I,trying to protect his stomach bought him enteric coated which just took the damage further down the line. Had he been taking regular aspirin he might have felt pain and distress before it got that bad. And he probably would have seen the Dr. before losing so much blood internally. Once they found the ulcer they cauterized it and he was fine,that and two pints of blood given upon his arrival in the ER after an occult blood test of his stool. It’s a wonderful drug but like all drugs carries some risk.

In 2000, after taking 2 or 3 aspirin every night for 3 years I experienced a major allergic response called angioedema, causing my tongue and throat to swell, nearly causing my death. I had no idea it could be dangerous. I experienced allergic signs before the major threat, such as nausea, headaches, and slight facial swelling. I was taking it to help me sleep. I now take small nightly doses of zyrtec, benedryl and zantac. These address the angioedema threat and enable me to take an occasional dose of NSAID if needed for minor aches and pains.

Is it possible this woman wasn’t taking enteric coated aspirin and her bleeding was from a stomach ulcer? Or do you and/or your readers find that the coated aspirin cause problems too?

I just posted to that issue. Enteric just takes the issue further down the digestive tract. My husband developed a huge ulcer due to Enteric coated aspirin. Had he taken the regular kind I think he may have felt pain in his stomach long before he developed an ulcer. I would never let him, nor would I, use enteric aspirin again. He felt absolutely no pain with an ulcer beyond the stomach.

I have read that an extract of licorice, DGL, before ingesting aspirin, will protect the GI track from bleeding. Do you know if this is accurate?

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