Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection. Inflammation helps to remove harmful stimuli, irritants, infections and pathogens from the body. Oftentimes, when the body is inflamed, swelling, redness and pain can occur.
Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and a salicylate used to relieve pain, reduce swelling and decrease fever. Aspirin works by blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, or COX-1. COX-1 is found in the lining of the stomach. This enzyme converts arachidonic acid to prostaglandin. When prostaglandins are in the body, pain and inflammation occur. Because aspirin blocks the COX-1 enzyme, it can help to relieve pain and inflammation.
Although non-steroidal anti-inflammatories help reduce swelling, they do not come without risk. NSAIDs can cause a variety of side effects, including gastrointestinal disturbances, kidney damage, asthma attacks and even a life-threatening hemorrhage.
Aspirin can cause a variety of gastrointestinal problems. Users may experience nausea, vomiting, heartburn and stomach pain. These symptoms are generally mild and go away with time. However, it is important to contact a physician immediately if you vomit blood or if the vomit looks like coffee grounds. Additionally, if you notice bright red blood in your stools or black or tarry stools, damage may have happened to your GI tract.
Numerous studies have been done on the effects of aspirin on the GI tract. NSAIDs are the second leading cause of ulcers. Ulcers can cause internal bleeding in the stomach. If an ulcer is not treated, the stomach acids in the stomach can eat through the intestinal walls or can cause an obstruction in the digestive tract.
Aspirin can cause a variety of skin irritations. Users may experience a rash, cold clammy skin or hives. Most often these skin irritations are a result of an allergic reaction; however, extended use can also cause these conditions. Other skin conditions include blisters, itchy skin, brown or purple skin blotches and redness of the skin.
Because aspirin has the ability to thin the blood, anemia, a decrease in platelets and white blood cells can occur. Bleeding can occur in the skull as well as the stomach and intestines. Additionally, clotted blood can collect in organs and tissues throughout the body.
Aspirin can also negatively affect your breathing. In certain cases, aspirin can cause bronchospasms to occur. Wheezing, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing can happen. Finally, aspirin can trigger an asthma attack, especially in people already suffering from asthma.
There are other symptoms that are associated with aspirin use. These symptoms include tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears, abnormal liver functions, seizures, interstitial nephritis and drowsiness. An abnormal liver can cause jaundice, chronic fatigue, low metabolism and liver failure. Interstitial nephritis is a kidney disorder that causes inflammation in the spaces between the kidney tubules.
In addition to these side effects, aspirin can interact with more than 490 drugs. If you are on an aspirin regimen or take aspirin regularly, consult your physician or pharmacist before combining these two medications. These interactions include an increased risk of hemorrhage, kidney problems, breathing difficulties and irregular heart rhythms.
Do not consume alcohol while taking aspirin as this can increase the risk of bleeding in the digestive tract. Furthermore, aspirin should not be taken with caffeine as caffeine can increase the effectiveness as well as the side effects of this drug.
Reye's syndrome is a rare condition that causes swelling to occur in the brain and liver. This syndrome is commonly diagnosed in children and teenagers. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, Reye’s syndrome can be triggered by the use of aspirin in children and teenagers who are suffering from an infection or illness, especially chicken pox and influenza. Therefore, pediatricians recommend aspirin only be used by patients older than 18.
Aspirin can help reduce fever and relieve muscle pain, headaches and toothaches. Additionally, your physician may recommend a lose dose aspirin regimen to help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Because of the numerous side effects and drug interactions associated with aspirin use, it is important that you inform your physician about any allergies, medical conditions and medications that you are currently taking, including over the counter medications, prescription medications and herbal remedies.