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Pain Killers Bad for Kidneys, Worse for CKD

Do you pop pills at the slightest pain? If you are a pill-popper here is something you should know about analgesics also known as pain killers. They may relieve your pain but may be harming a vital organ in your body: your kidneys.  Even worse is those analgesics further reduce blood flow to the kidney when a person suffers from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).

How can the use of analgesics hurt the kidneys? The long term use of ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and other higher dose aspirin can cause chronic interstitial nephritis. For this reason, over the counter (OTC) pain relievers should not be used for more than 10 days and fever reducers for more than three days. This is clearly indicated in the warning labels of OTC analgesics. OTC analgesics include aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and ketoprofen.  Prescription analgesics are also available, and are usually stronger than OTC ones.

Additionally, analgesics and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) have been known to contribute to gastrointestinal bleeding and stomach ulcers. The use of NSAIDs also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. NSAIDs are a group of pain relievers that include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and ketoprofen.

It is strongly recommended that analgesics be used as prescribed by your doctor, or as stated on the label for OTC drugs; they should be taken at the lowest dose; and used for a short period.

Those with reduced kidney functions are not recommended to take higher dose aspirin and NSAIDs. If necessary, kidney patients should take NSAIDs under a doctor’s care. NSAIDs also have contra-indications for people with heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure and those over 65. These pills increase the risk of kidney failure and cause progressive kidney damage.

Meanwhile, acetaminophen is the recommended analgesic for kidney patients. Aspirin is not recommended because it acts as a “blood thinner” and may cause bleeding complications. Patients on regular acetaminophen use should be supervised by their doctors. Alcohol should be avoided while on this medication.

The good news is kidney disease caused by the use of analgesics is PREVENTABLE! Here are some guidelines on how to use analgesics without harming your kidneys: Remember what was earlier said about prolonged use? Well OTC analgesics should not be used for more than 10 days for pain, and more than 3 days for fever. Drink at least eight glasses of fluids daily when taking analgesics, and avoid drinking alcohol. Analgesics with a mixture of painkillers and caffeine in one pill should be avoided. These can drastically damage the kidneys. Read the warning labels for all OTC analgesics. Those with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, kidney or liver diseases should take NSAIDs under the doctor’s care.  Last but not least, your doctor should be aware of all the medications you’re taking.

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