Ibuprofen Side Effects With Long-Term Use

Ibuprofen has been in use since the 1960s. This popular over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug inhibits a key inflammatory enzyme, cyclooxyenase, or COX, thereby decreasing inflammation and its attendant pain. Ibuprofen is commonly used to manage arthritis, primary dysmennhorrea and fever and as a general analgesic. Though it has a good safety coefficient relative to others in its class, according to research published in the December 2009 edition of Inflammopharmacology, long-term use of ibuprofen can have serious side effects on several systems of the body.


Approximately 1 percent of individuals using ibuprofen for a period of three to six months will experience upper GI bleeding, with the likelihood increasing in proportion to length of use. In addition, about four out of five of these cases will be asymptomatic (www.drugs.com). Small intestine and large intestine bleeding, ulceration and perforation can occur with long-term ibuprofen use, as well. A study published in the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology reported that 71 percent of the patients studied had injury to their small intestine following 90 days of ibuprofen use. Factors such as age, use of other medications and lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption increase risk (www.drugs.com).


Researchers Hippisley-Cox and Coupland, publishing in the British Medical Journal in 2005, revealed evidence of increased risk of first-time heart attack among chronic ibuprofen users. Rainsford, of the Biomedical Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK, concluded that the cardiovascular risks associated with ibuprofen are higher than without but lower than those seen with other NSAIDS. Other areas of cardiovascular concern with ibuprofen use include anemia, possibly from blood lost through the GI tract, decreased hemoglobin and increased clotting time.


The association between kidney injury and ibuprofen use has been established in numerous studies. Individuals most at risk are those who already have some form of renal disease, as well as individuals with liver impairment or heart failure, or those who take certain blood pressure regulators. Liver damage from ibuprofen, particularly irreversible forms as seen from other NSAIDS, is regarded as rare and most often occurs in those with pre-existing hepatic disease such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.


Some research shows that ibuprofen has the effect of reducing risk and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which is associated with central nervous system inflammation. Dokmeci, writing in Folia Med 2004, points out that ibuprofen is a potent antioxidant as well. In other research at the University of Pennsylvania, however, there was a negative association between long-term ibuprofen use and cognitive function in patients with traumatic brain injury.

About this Author

Tracey Roizman, D.C., has been a freelance writer and speaker on natural and preventive health since 1995. She holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry, chiropractic degree, and is a postgraduate diplomate in functional neurology.