Before you pop that painkiller

Before you pop that painkiller

When in pain, the easiest thing for anyone to do is pop a painkiller. These tablets are available over the counter, cheap and highly effective.

They are like a magic potion which can relieve any kind of pain – body ache, dental ache, menstrual discomfort as well as arthritis joint sore. Unfortunately, recent observations have proved that they are not the medical boon they seem to be.

Doctors are increasingly cautioning that overuse, and even minimal intake, of a class of painkillers is leading to acute and irreversible kidney
damage.

The city’s leading nephrologists Metrolife spoke to are in agreement that a category of painkillers are causing more harm than good.

Dr Alka Bhasin, Head of Nephrology, Max Healthcare says, “We are getting cases of painkiller induced kidney damage on a daily basis. Majorly, these
include people with no history of renal problems. A significant cause is people taking painkillers indiscriminately. Housewives with headache or fatigue, young girls with menstrual pain, injured sportspersons, people suffering from back or body ache – all are
going for painkillers.”

“The problem,” she continues, “is not with all kinds of painkillers but a specific group called NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). Examples include medicines like Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Nefanamic acid, Nimesulide, Indomethacin etc. These are available under different names as manufactured by various pharmaceutical companies.”

Dr Sanjeev Gulati, Additional Director, Nephrology, Fortis Institute of Renal
Sciences adds, “Recently I got a case where a young bureaucrat, who had just played a tough session of badminton, developed shoulder ache and took painkillers. He had no record of kidney problems, had taken just a tablet or two and had to be admitted here with acute kidney damage.

He was a hair away from the point when one has to be put on dialysis.”
“Unfortunately,” he adds, “These painkillers are also the exact remedy for certain medical conditions. For example, a person suffering from say spondylitis has to take one such NSAID painkiller for relief. But spondylitis is not healed in a day’s time and one may have to take this painkiller for decades together. Ultimately, one ends up with a bad back as well as a failed kidney.”

Both the doctors also highlight the fact that reactions to painkillers in different people are still a subject of study. It is still not clearly understood why certain people with no kidney problems react violently to a justified intake of painkillers while others develop complications over years of painkiller consumption.

Dr Alka says, “At such a time, we can only exercise caution in using painkillers. First of all, doctors must be very careful while prescribing these medicines. In conditions where NSAID painkillers are not necessary, non-NSAID painkillers should be recommended. Patients should also make the doctor aware of any pre-existing conditions especially those related to the kidney.”

“A significant issue of such painkillers available freely over the counter must also be addressed by the government. Otherwise, we will not be too far from a painkiller epidemic in the time to come.”     

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