Most pharmacies offer many different over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Most of these are non-steroidal and include ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen sodium. Aspirin is another inexpensive and widely used medication that is used to reduce inflammation. Many of these can also reduce fever and pain that is not related to inflammation.
Aspirin was one of the first medications developed for use as an anti-inflammatory. Aspirin is made from salicylate, which is found in myrtle plants and willow trees. Mention of using medications derived from willow trees dates back to 3000 BC, and most medical historians believe these ancient medications were probably similar to the aspirin used in modern medicine. In the past few decades, research has shown that aspirin offers many other health benefits, such as tumor shrinkage, improvement in blood circulation, and reduction of platelet formation.
Though aspirin is usually very effective in treating inflammation, it is not recommended for patients who suffer from stomach disorders. Extended use of aspirin, especially in high dosages, can cause damage to the lining of the stomach. In addition, those who are preparing for surgery may want to consider reducing their intake, as aspirin can cause blood thinning which can lead to excessive bleeding.
Some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, work by inhibiting the production of hormones responsible for both pain and inflammation. It is also used to help reduce swelling caused by inflammation and injury. Ibuprofen was developed in the late 1950s by a British scientist and physician named Stewart Adams, and today is one of the most widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Though ibuprofen is generally considered safe, overuse of the medication can sometimes cause stomach ulcers, and in some cases in may increase risk of heart attack and stroke.
Naproxen sodium is a type of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory similar to aspirin, but may sometimes have more serious side effects. Long-term use of this medication sometimes greatly increases risk of cardiac arrest and stroke. Those who are already at risk for heart attack or persons suffering from high blood pressure should probably consult with their physician before using naproxen sodium. This medication can also cause life-threatening gastrointestinal problems such as stomach bleeding, ulcers, and perforation of the stomach or intestines.
In some cases, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can interact with other types of drugs. It is a good idea for patients already taking prescription medications to ask their doctors before taking these drugs. Doctors may sometimes prescribe steroid based medications for patients who are at risk from aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen.