aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Ecotrin) (cont.)

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Medical and Pharmacy Editor:

NSAIDs may increase the blood levels of lithium (Eskalith) by reducing the excretion of lithium by the kidneys. Increased levels of lithium may lead to lithium toxicity.

Aspirin may reduce the blood pressure lowering effects of blood pressure medications. This may occur because prostaglandins have a role in the regulation of blood pressure.

When aspirin is used in combination with methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) or aminoglycoside antibiotics (for example, gentamicin) the blood levels of the methotrexate or aminoglycoside may increase, presumably because their elimination from the body is reduced. This may lead to more methotrexate or aminoglycoside-related side effects.

Individuals taking oral blood thinners or anticoagulants, for example, warfarin, (Coumadin) should avoid aspirin because aspirin also thins the blood, and excessive blood thinning may lead to serious bleeding.

PREGNANCY: Aspirin is generally avoided during pregnancy because it may adversely effect the fetus. However, low aspirin doses have been safely used for the prevention of complications of pregnancy.

NURSING MOTHERS: Aspirin is excreted into breast milk and may cause adverse effects in the infant.

SIDE EFFECTS: Most patients benefit from aspirin and other NSAIDs with few side effects. However, serious side effects can occur and generally tend to be dose-related. Therefore, it is advisable to use the lowest effective dose to minimize side effects.

The most common side effects of aspirin involve the gastrointestinal system and ringing in the ears. With respect to the gastrointestinal system, it can cause ulcerations, abdominal burning, pain, cramping, nausea, gastritis, and even serious gastrointestinal bleeding and liver toxicity. Sometimes, ulceration and bleeding can occur without any abdominal pain. Black tarry stools, weakness, and dizziness upon standing may be the only signs of internal bleeding.

Should ringing in the ears occur, the daily dose should be reduced. Rash, kidney impairment, vertigo, and dizziness also can occur. Aspirin should be avoided by patients with peptic ulcer disease or poor kidney function, since this medication can aggravate both conditions. Aspirin may exacerbate asthma. Aspirin can raise the blood uric acid level and is avoided in patients with hyperuricemia and gout. Children and teenagers should avoid aspirin for symptoms of the flu or chickenpox because of the associated risk of Reye's Syndrome, a serious disease of the liver and nervous system that can lead to coma and death. Aspirin can increase the effect of medicines used to treat diabetes mellitus, resulting in abnormally low blood sugars if blood sugar levels are not monitored. NSAIDs should be discontinued prior to elective surgery because of a mild tendency to interfere with blood clotting. Aspirin, because of its prolonged effect on platelets, is best discontinued at least ten to fourteen days in advance of the procedure.

Reference: AHFS Drug Information


Last Editorial Review: 6/3/2010



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