NSAIDs for Psoriatic Arthritis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2024 | Last updated: February 2024

Nonsteroidal 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. Prostaglandins 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 prostaglandins: 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 1 NSAID than others.1,2

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

Examples of NSAIDs

NSAIDs are available in over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription versions. Common NSAIDs include:1,2

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®)
  • Naproxen (Aleve®, Naprosyn®)
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex®)

What are the possible side effects?

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

  • Stomach ulcers and upset stomach
  • High blood pressure
  • Fluid retention, which can cause 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 longer use.1,2

These are not all the possible side effects of NSAIDs. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking NSAIDs. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking NSAIDs.

Other things to know

NSAIDs are very effective in relieving pain and inflammation. But they may not be the best choice for everyone. Ask your doctor if you should consider taking NSAIDs for your PsA.1,2

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

If you have any of the following health conditions, talk to your doctor before taking NSAIDs:1

  • Kidney problems
  • Liver problems
  • Stomach problems (acid reflux or ulcers)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)

NSAIDs should not be used during pregnancy unless prescribed by a doctor. If you are planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your 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.

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Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.