What Are NSAIDs?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022 | Last updated: December 2022

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to treat pain and inflammation. They are often used in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), especially in mild cases.1

How do NSAIDs work?

NSAIDs block enzymes in the body that make prostaglandins. These are naturally occurring fatty acids that play a role in the inflammatory and pain processes. By blocking these enzymes, NSAIDs decrease inflammation, pain, and fever.1,2

Some NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, block 2 of these enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. Celebrex, a prescription NSAID, targets COX-2 and is also known as a COX-2 inhibitor. Different NSAIDs may have similar effectiveness. Some people respond better to one NSAID than another.1,2

NSAIDs start to work quickly on pain, within a few hours of taking the medicine. The anti-inflammatory effects of NSAIDs take longer to realize.1

Formulations of NSAIDs

NSAIDs are available in over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription formulations. Common NSAIDs include:2

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (brand names include Motrin® and Advil®)
  • Naproxen (brand names include Aleve® and Naprosyn®)
  • Celebrex® (celecoxib)

What are the possible side effects of NSAIDs?

Side effects can vary depending on the specific drug you are taking. Possible side effects include:1,2

  • Stomach ulcers and stomach upset
  • High blood pressure
  • Fluid retention causing swelling around the lower legs, feet, ankles, and hands
  • Kidney problems
  • Heart problems
  • Rashes

Long-term use of NSAIDs has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. Although side effects can occur at any time, the risk of side effects increases with higher dosages and with a longer duration of treatment. Although NSAIDs are very effective for relieving pain and inflammation, they are not the best choice for all people.1,2

These are not all the possible side effects of NSAIDs. Talk to your doctor about what to expect or if you experience any changes that concern you during treatment with NSAIDs.

Things to know about NSAIDs

People who have heart disease should not take NSAIDs without first talking to their doctor. Some NSAIDs may interfere with medicines prescribed to people with heart disease.1

NSAIDs should not be used during pregnancy unless prescribed by a doctor. Women who are planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding should also talk to their doctor before taking NSAIDs.1

Before beginning treatment for PsA, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.