Every home probably has ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet. Available under a variety of brands (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), we use ibuprofen often to treat our aches and pains. But what exactly is ibuprofen? If we take too much of it, could it harm us more than it helps us?
Ibuprofen is part of a drug class called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Approved in 1974 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ibuprofen has found its way into almost every home and hospital.
A treatment for pain, fever, and inflammation, ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter drug. Pain, inflammation, and fever occur partly because the body releases a chemical called prostaglandin. Ibuprofen blocks prostaglandins from being produced, which lowers the levels of prostaglandins present in the body. As a result, inflammation, pain, and fever are reduced.
Most overdoses of ibuprofen don’t end in severe adverse effects or fatalities. However, prolonged use of ibuprofen or high overdoses can result in serious complications. Let’s take a look at how ibuprofen can be bad for your body.
Ibuprofen works by blocking prostaglandins. However, prostaglandins also allow blood vessels to push more blood in and around the kidneys. By blocking prostaglandins, the kidneys receive less blood flow. If the kidneys don’t get enough blood flow, it decreases the amount of oxygen to kidney tissues—leading to kidney damage and, eventually, kidney failure.
Although kidney failure is possible in both children and adults who experience ibuprofen overdose, it’s a rare occurrence. Older people, those who have a pre-existing kidney problem, or people who are using blood pressure medications might be more prone to developing kidney issues related to ibuprofen use. According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 3% of new kidney failure cases are due to long-term use or overuse of pain medications like ibuprofen. If a person continues to use ibuprofen, even when kidney symptoms develop, it can lead to long-lasting kidney issues.
The symptoms of compromised kidney function are:
- Less frequent urination
- Swelling or fluid buildup
- An increase in blood pressure
10. Central Nervous System
At high doses, ibuprofen can affect the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS, which contains the brain and the spinal cord, controls consciousness and overall bodily functions. People who overdose on large amounts of ibuprofen can become extremely lethargic or fall into a coma.
An overdose or overuse of ibuprofen can also lead to respiratory depression, where the brain slows the breathing rate. Adults and children with respiratory depression can start by coughing or wheezing, later progressing to slow breathing rates. Children may also show signs of tiredness and experience seizures when overdosing on ibuprofen.
An overdose of ibuprofen can also result in mental status changes. Due to ibuprofen’s effects on the brain, people may become confused and disoriented. They may also show signs of paranoia, anxiety, and mood changes. Fortunately, if caught in time, health professionals can reverse the effects of high doses of ibuprofen on the CNS.