This Morning: Dr Helen gives advice on mixing painkillers
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Ibuprofen is an everyday painkiller for a range of aches and pains, including back pain, period pain and toothache. Millions of Britons take ibuprofen without incurring any health problems but certain groups should think twice about taking ibuprofen. A new study, published in the journal Mathematical Biosciences, warns against combining the popular painkiller with diuretics and a renin-angiotensin system (RSA) inhibitors.
Diuretics and RSA inhibitors are commonly prescribed together for people with hypertension and are available under various pharmaceutical brand names.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo used computer-simulated drug trials to model the interactions of the three drugs and the impact on the kidney.
They found that in people with certain medical profiles, the combination can cause acute kidney injury, which in some cases can be permanent.
“It’s not that everyone who happens to take this combination of drugs is going to have problems,” said Anita Layton, professor of applied mathematics at Waterloo and Canada 150 Research Chair in mathematical biology and medicine.
“But the research shows it’s enough of a problem that you should exercise caution.”
Computer-simulated drug trials can quickly produce results that would take much longer in human clinical trials.
Professor Layton and her team use mathematics and computer science to give medical practitioners a head start with issues like drug complications.
The research, in this case, can also speak directly to the many people who are taking drugs for hypertension and may reach for a painkiller with ibuprofen without giving it much thought.
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“Diuretics are a family of drugs that make the body hold less water,” Professor Layton said.
“Being dehydrated is a major factor in acute kidney injury, and then the RAS inhibitor and ibuprofen hit the kidney with this triple whammy. If you happen to be on these hypertension drugs and need a painkiller, consider acetaminophen instead.”
Other reasons to avoid ibuprofen
According to the NHS, you should not take ibuprofen by mouth or apply it to your skin if you have ever had an allergic reaction or symptoms like wheezing, runny nose or skin reactions after taking aspirin, ibuprofen or other non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen.
You should also avoid the painkiller if you’re pregnant, the health body adds.
To make sure ibuprofen tablets, capsules, granules or liquid is safe for you, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you:
- Have ever had bleeding in your stomach or a hole (perforation) in your stomach caused by an NSAID
- Have had a hole (perforation) in your stomach, bleeding in your Stomach or a stomach ulcer more than once
- Have a health problem that means you have an increased chance of bleeding
- Have severe heart failure, severe kidney failure or severe liver failure
- Are trying to get pregnant
- Have high blood pressure that’s not under control
- Have heart disease or mild to moderate heart failure, or have ever Had a stroke
- Have kidney or liver problems
- Have asthma, hay fever or allergies
- Have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Have chickenpox or shingles – taking ibuprofen can increase the chance of certain infections and skin reactions.
“If you’re over 65, ibuprofen can make you more likely to get stomach ulcers,” adds the NHS.
“Your doctor will prescribe you medicine to protect your stomach if you’re taking ibuprofen for a long-term condition.”
How do painkillers work?
How you feel pain is complex and involves not only the nerves in your body and brain, but also your emotions.
Your experience of pain is unique to you, and your circumstances and mood can affect how much pain you feel.
According to Bupa, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, work by changing the way your body responds to pain and swelling.
“Doctors aren’t sure exactly how paracetamol works, but it’s thought that it may block pain signals to your brain,” explains the health body.
It adds: “If you’re taking several painkillers, read the patient information leaflets that come with your medicines to make sure you don’t accidentally take too much.”
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