Ibuprofen Major Side Effects

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) is a common over-the-counter medication used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. This medication belongs to the class non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and works by altering chemical signals that are related to pain and inflammation, states the Mayo Clinic. Ibuprofen can be used for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, menstrual cramps and other minor aches and pains. While ibuprofen is relatively safe to use, it can cause serious side effects that you should be aware of.

Gastrointestinal System Side Effects

The most common side effects of ibuprofen involve the gastrointestinal system. This occurs because ibuprofen affects the lining of the stomach and can increase the risk for developing stomach ulcers or bleeding. Be cautious of severe gastrointestinal damage, which include blood in your vomit or stools or vomiting a coffee ground-like substance. Immediately stop taking ibuprofen and seek medical treatment if you are having these symptoms. Emergency treatment can prevent further gastrointestinal bleeding from occurring. According to Drugs.com, stomach pain, heartburn and nausea occur in 3 to 9 percent of patients, and less than 3 percent experience cramps, constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. These effects will likely improve over time. However, always let your doctor know of any side effects that you may be experiencing.

Nervous System Side Effects

According to the Mayo Clinic, abnormalities of the nervous system may occur upon taking ibuprofen. This occurs because ibuprofen alters chemical signals in the brain that are related to pain. It may interfere with other chemical signals to cause side effects. Rare but serious neurological side effects include coma, confusion, depression, impaired vision and seizures. Immediately stop taking ibuprofen and seek immediate medical treatment if you are experiencing any of these serious side effects. Three to 9 percent of people who take ibuprofen experience dizziness and less than 3 percent experience headache and nervousness, states Drugs.com. These side effects will likely improve over time; however, stop taking ibuprofen if these effects do not improve over a few days.

Cardiovascular System Side Effects

Ibuprofen may also cause unwanted side effects on the cardiovascular system. This occurs because chemical signals that control blood vessels may be affected. Rare but serious cardiovascular side effects include fast, irregular, pounding or racing heartbeat, increased blood pressure and tightness in the chest. Do not hesitate to seek immediate medical treatment if you are having these problems. Other, less serious problems include fluid retention or edema in greater than 1 percent but less than 3 percent of users; treat this side effect by laying flat on your back and elevating your feet. In addition, regular exercise can help relieve edema in your legs. Your doctor may prescribe a diuretic or compression stockings to reduce this effect. Otherwise, this should improve as your body adjusts to taking ibuprofen.

About this Author

Jacques Courseault, M.D., began writing professionally in 2007. He is currently the fitness editor for Dr.Gourmet.com, founder and writer of ExerciseMenu.com, and co-founder of Don’t Weight to Lose. He is a resident in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Courseault received his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Tulane University, and is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine.