Diclofenac sodium is a type of arthritis medication that is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It is available by prescription only, and works to reduce swelling, stiffness, and pain that comes from many forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In some cases, it can also be used to treat sports injuries, headaches, and chronic muscle pain.
As an NSAID, diclofenac sodium works to block the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are chemicals produced naturally by the body as part of the immune system’s response to infection. These chemicals cause swelling, joint pain, stiffness, and even fevers. When used as an arthritis treatment, the symptoms experienced from many types of arthritis can be alleviated.
The common side effects of diclofenac sodium are generally minimal and can include nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, and stomach discomfort. Like other NSAIDs, there is a risk of developing ulcers, liver damage, or a heart attack. For this reason, the lowest effective dose is prescribed. Doctors will start off with low doses so that if the medication is needed on a long-term basis, the dose can be gradually increased to remain effective.
Diclofenac sodium should be taken exactly as prescribed and with a full glass of water. If stomach discomfort occurs, this arthritis pain killer can be taken with food. Alleviating gas, nausea, and heartburn can be done with antacids and other similar over the counter aids. Emergency medical attention is necessary if a rash appears or the skin or eyes turn yellow. If there is blood present in the stools, vomit, or urine, immediate attention is also necessary.
Due to the potential risk of life threatening effects and interactions, there are certain people who should not take this medication. Diclofenac sodium should not be taken by anyone who will be undergoing or has already had heart bypass surgery. People with severe kidney problems should not take this medicine. If an allergic reaction to aspirin or other NSAIDs has occurred, taking this medicine can cause another reaction.
Consuming large amounts of alcohol is not recommended because alcohol thins the blood and raises the risk of bleeding. Sun sensitivity can occur, but is rare. Sunscreen should be used when outside as a precaution, and long exposure to the sun should be avoided. Doctors should be aware of any medications that are being taken, both over the counter and prescription, to avoid the potential for dangerous interactions between the diclofenac sodium and other medications.