If aspirin is dangerous what can be done to relieve pain? There are many new drugs flooding the market – they are called non steroidal antiinflammatory drugs. They are mild pain relievers and fight inflammation.
The grand daddy of this group is Indocin (Indomethacin) which was introduced in 1963. It is effective in rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and gout. It is not recommended to children under 14 years, pregnant and nursing mothers, patients who have peptic ulcer and gastritis, and patients who are allergic to this drug. Doctors generally agree that it is not any more effective than aspirin. It does however have more serious side effects than aspirin. In fact 35 to 50 per cent of people who take it develop bizarre symptoms such as total loss of appetite, nausea abdominal pain, painful ulceration of upper gastrointestinal tract which sometimes perforates leading to haemorrhage and anaemia. It can cause hepatitis, jaundice or servere bone marrow depression. Medical literature cautions: “drug not to be used routinely”
There are many more entrants in the market like Brufen, Ibuprofen, Naprosyn (naproxen), Nalfon (fenoprofen) and tolmetin. They are all non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. They are taken orally and absorbed directly into the blood stream within one hour. Though they have similar effect but are chemically different, some people react better to one than the other. Usually after a week you will be able to assess whether any of these drugs is going to harm your stomach.
Brufen and Ibuprofen were introduced in 1960. They are weak but effective anti-inflammatory drugs. They pass in the joint fluid and remains long after the amount in blood stream has diminished. They are supposed to have less side effects than aspirin. Still 15% patients produce severe symptoms, severe enough to cause them to discontinue. They may report thinning or loss of hair.
It is easier to live with Naprosyn (naproxen) than aspirin. Twice a day, it is effective in rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. It gives a lesser side effect than aspirin. Butazolidine (phenylbutazone) is effective in osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and gout. It depresses bone marrow. It is advised for those taking this drug to have a regular blood count done. It causes irritation of the stomach and can produce ulcers. It causes sodium and fluid retention in the body. It must not be administered in cardiac cases and dermatitis. It can cause jaundice, blured vision, asthma attacks. As many as 45 percent of people will develop side effects. Tandril (oxyphenbutazone) is closely related to this drug and is equally dangerous.
Gout responds quickly to this drug. Inflammation and pain subside quickly. It can produce nausea, diarrohea, can suppress bone marrow and produce anaemia, leucopenia and thrombocytopenia. It can cause liver cell damage. Not to be given to a patient suffering from liver or kidney disease.
It is a uricosuric agent. It helps to reduce uric acid in blood and is usually prescribed to those suffering from gout. Once started it has to be taken life long. It should be accompanied by weight reduction, low fat diet and complete absence from alcohol. Probenecid helps to block the reabsorption of uric in the kidney and thus more uric acid passes out in the urine. It has side effects like vomiting, skin rash, drug fever. Urate stones may get formed in the kidney and cause severe colic.
It acts by inhibiting the enzyme xanthine oxide which prevents the final step in the production of uric acid. It can produce gastric irritation, dermatitis, blood dyscrasias and is toxic to liver.
These are “miracle” drugs, but most dangerous of them all. When first introduced in 1950 they were thought to be the greatest boon of all time for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. When the people were first given this drug their symptoms disappeared overnight. The patients who were confined to chair or bed suddenly were up and about. Their limbs moved and spirits soared. To millions of people with arthritis around the world, cortisone held out great promise that at last an effective remedy for the disease had been found. Unfortunately, in the next few years the drug showed that it was a much dangerous as wonderful. It soon became evident that the remedy was worse than the disease.
Doctors found that patients got side effects which were serious. They developed stomach ulcers, loss of muscle tone and became moon faced. Hair grew on the faces of women taking them. Bones became less dense and fragile (osteoporosis). There was difficulty for a wound to get healed. It also led to cataract, high blood pressure, greater appetite, emotional depression, even psychosis.
The other drugs which produce a welcome relief from pain and inflammation and also terrible side effects are prednisolone, decadron, hydrocartisone etc. These drugs even suppress the immune system of the body. The body becomes less capable of fighting infection. An immune system is essential for our survival.
Overenthusiastic and new doctors tend to overprescribe cortisone. This drug when essential should be taken in minimum doses. Switch on to some milder drug or reduce the doses. It must not be stopped immediately, but doses reduced gradually and then stopped. After taking steroids for sometime, the adrenal gland shuts down. If you stop suddenly the body will not be able to reduce the dose and space it.
A random injection of cortisone directly into a painful joint does not produce dreadful side effects. Because of its very brief stay in the body the drug not have much chance to do a lot of damage. Keep in mind, applying ice often produces the same relief.
Sometimes gold is given orally or by injection in arthritis. Unlike steroids or aspirin the beneficial effect does not appear for weeks even for months. Injections are painful and can have serious side effects. Most common is soreness in the mouth, skin rashes or even a plastic anaemia and kidney damage.
Like gold it takes several months to work. The side effects of penicillamine are explosive vomiting, loss of taste, sore mucous membrane, excretion of protein in urine, bone marrow problem in some cases a serious disease like myasthenia gravis.
This is the drug actually used to treat malaria, but in can also be used to treat chronic active rheumatoid arthritis. Taken over a long period it can produce some unwanted symptoms like skin rashes, hair loss or even retinopathy which may result in blindness. Arthritis is a disease which will last for a lifetime. All the medicines used are merely pain relieving and inflammation reducing drugs to be used for years if not life long. The innocent looking tablets are not innocent at all. They give relief in symptoms but do damage to the body. Doctors always balance the two, if disease is too severe and symptoms must be relieved the drug is given inspite of the fact that they know that the drug does harm to the body and many a time the harm is greater than the benefit derived. With the above knowledge of drugs and their side effects we know that it is better to avoid drugs or take them in minimum doses and for the shortest duration to avoid the dreaded side effects.
The most important thing of all is that the treatment must do no harm. So it becomes more important to know what we should do to avoid medicine and what are the alternative methods to get relief or cure. The cure is accomplished by the healing power inherent in the body, itself. One of the most important things to help the body to help itself is food. Wrong food can produce disease and the right food can cure it. Make food, your medicine, Hypocrates said.
During the World Wars I and II acute gouty arthritis was less common in Europe. When dietary proteins again became plentiful the disease returned. In Japan gouty arthritis was rare but now it is competing with Europe, with an increase in the consumption of proteins. Arthritis seems to be more common among people who consume a rich diet.
Most doctors honestly and firmly believe that what you eat absolutely has no effect on arthritis. Yet people who switch on to a milder vegetarian diet are known to find relief. Some doctors have come forward with explanations how certain specific diets may really help almost every one with arthritis.