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Aspirin – Its Benefits and Side Effects
Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that inactivates the enzyme cyclooxygenase. Cyclooxygenase is the enzyme that is responsible for the release of some chemical mediators responsible for inflammation and pain, thus aspirin has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Taking Aspirin has the Following Benefits:
Anti-inflammatory – since aspirin exerts its anti-inflammatory action by blocking the enzyme responsible for inflammation. It could improve inflammation in diseases like arthritis, etc.
Analgesic Effect – same with its anti-inflammatory effects, aspirin blocks prostaglandin formation which is responsible for pain by blocking the enzyme cyclooxygenase. With this effect, aspirin can decrease pain sensation and can be used in treating mild to moderate musculoskeletal pain.
Antipyretic Effect – fever can be caused by prostaglandin synthesis and by blocking this, the body temperature could decrease. Aspirin decreases body temperature by blocking prostaglandin synthesis.
Cardiovascular Action – Aspirin inhibits platelet aggregation and is used in patients who have high risk of developing transient ischemic attacks (TIA), strokes, and myocardial infarction. Many studies have shown that aspirin could lower morbidity and mortality in the diseases mentioned.
Side Effects of Aspirin:
Gastrointestinal side effects – The most common side effect of taking aspirin is having gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and eventually gastrointestinal bleeding. With this side effect, aspirin is to be taken with food and with increase fluids to decrease these gastrointestinal symptoms.
Bleeding tendencies – Since aspirin inhibits platelet aggregation, a person taking aspirin could have a bleeding episode. Patients taking aspirin should be informed with this possible side effect.
Respiratory depression – if aspirin is taken in high or non-therapeutic doses it could cause respiratory depression and metabolic disturbances in the body. Seek consult with a physician for proper aspirin dosing.
Hypersensitivity – a certain percentage of people may develop hypersensitivity reactions to aspirin, however there are alternatives if one is allergic to aspirin.
Reye Syndrome – this complication can be seen in children taking aspirin for fever, etc. Children who cannot totally metabolize aspirin would lead to these complication characterized by fulminant hepatitis and cerebral edema and could be fatal. Giving of other less toxic NSAID’s like ibuprofen is recommended for children.
Toxicity – intoxication with aspirin at high doses could present with nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, dizziness, etc. It could even lead to coma and eventually death. When intoxication is suspected seek hospital consult right away.
Taking aspirin has its benefits and side effects but usually the benefits of aspirin outweighs its side effects making aspirin a useful drug.
Lipponcott’s Illustrated Reviews: Pharmacology, 4th edition