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What Is the Connection between Ibuprofen and Ulcers?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ibuprofen and ulcers seem to be directly linked, as anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen are the second most common cause of ulcers. Patients who take these medications periodically and for short periods of time are not usually thought to be at a significant risk. Those who use ibuprofen regularly as part of a pain management plan can elevate their risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeds. This risk can persist for up to a year after stopping the medication.

The most common reason to develop lesions in the gastrointestinal tract is infection with an organism called Helicobacter pylori. In other patients, a history of taking medications like aspirin and ibuprofen has been linked with the growth of ulcers. Ibuprofen and ulcers are thought to be linked because the medication can cause irritation in the membranes that line the digestive tract. Over time, the irritation can create a sore, which may not have a chance to heal if the patient keeps taking medication.

Patients using these drugs for routine pain management without specific medical advice may want to consult their doctors. Ongoing pain could be an indicator of a more serious medical condition that may require formal treatment. It’s also possible that a doctor may be able to recommend a safer and more effective medication to manage the patient’s pain and address concerns about ibuprofen and ulcers. In a meeting with a physician, it is important to be honest about how much medication the patient uses, and the intensity of the pain, as this information can help the doctor make the best possible recommendation.

Links between ibuprofen and ulcers are a cause for concern when a patient needs to take ibuprofen, or another anti-inflammatory drug, for an extended period of time. In these cases, the doctor may recommend being alert to signs of ulcers like pain, dark vomit or stool, and discomfort. Patients can also consider taking proton pump inhibitors to suppress ulcer-forming activity in the gut. These medications can make it safer to take ibuprofen in the long term.

Pharmacists and doctors can discuss the connection between ibuprofen and ulcers with a patient if there are concerns about a recommended course of therapy. Patients who do take anti-inflammatory drugs to manage chronic conditions may want to make sure this information is noted in a medic alert card. In an emergency, care providers need to know about any medications, not just prescriptions, that a patient is using. Being aware of an increased ulcer or bleeding risk could result in adjustments to diagnosis and treatment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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