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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are medications effective in treating inflammation and pain. They are routinely used for conditions such as arthritis, back pain, muscle sprains, fever, and headache. Some of these drugs require a prescription from your doctor. Advil and ibuprofen are two commonly used over-the-counter NSAIDS.

How do they work?
NSAIDs act on certain hormones (prostaglandins) in the body that produce inflammation. By blocking the hormones from doing their job, the swollen tissues reduce in size. This, in turn, decreases pain related to the inflammation. In addition, they have a direct pain-relieving effect.

How are they taken?
NSAIDs can be taken by mouth, injection, or suppository. The oral form should be taken with food and a glass of water to avoid stomach upset.

What are the side effects?
Some people experience upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches with these drugs. In very rare instances, NSAIDS have been known to cause a rash, muscle cramps, numbness in the extremities, mouth ulcers, blurred vision, jaundice, difficulty breathing and unusual bleeding.

Are they addictive?
Fortunately, NSAIDS are not addictive, which makes them especially useful with chronic illnesses like arthritis.

What other precautions should I know?
You should not take NSAIDS if you have had an allergic reaction to them in the past. They should be avoided during pregnancy and when breast-feeding. Patients with peptic ulcers or those taking blood thinning medications cannot use them. Special care should be taken if you have health conditions such as asthma, kidney or heart disease, or impaired liver function. Always discuss potential drug interactions or precautions with your doctor.