What do they do?

NSAIDs reduce pain, fever and inflammation. They prevent an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX) from making hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are one of the biggest contributors to inflammation in the body.

There are different forms of COX enzymes. COX-1 helps protect your stomach lining from digestive juices. COX-2 plays a role in joint inflammation. Traditional NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen block both COX-1 and COX-2. While this helps relieve pain, it also leaves your stomach vulnerable to ulcers and bleeding. Celecoxib (Celebrex) is a selective NSAID designed to be safer on the stomach. It targets only COX-2.

Who are they for?

NSAIDs are the most commonly used drugs to ease arthritis-related pain, swelling and stiffness. But the drugs are not for everyone. You should not take an NSAID if you are allergic to aspirin. Your doctor may recommend other medicines if you have a history of stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, asthma or kidney or liver disease.

What’s important to know about the drug class?

Although all NSAIDs work similarly, some people tend to respond better to one NSAID than another. If you’re just starting NSAIDs, your doctor will likely prescribe ibuprofen, because it is economical ($5 or less for a 30-day supply at many pharmacies) and then switch you to another, if necessary.

The Arthritis Today Drug Guide is meant for education – not self-medicating. Arthritis Today, the Arthritis Foundation and the Drug Guide Medical Review Panel do not endorse any products mentioned in this guide. While we endeavor to keep the information up to date, we make no representations or warranties about the completeness of the information provided.

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