Pain Relievers and High Blood Pressure

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Many common over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers have been shown to increase blood pressure. This effect can occur in both people with normal blood pressure and in those with already diagnosed high blood pressure (hypertension). Many common medications, not just pain relievers, can affect blood pressure because of the way that they affect signaling systems within the body. It is not commonly appreciated that pain relief drugs can have side effects that involve changes in blood pressure.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and others all have the capacity to increase blood pressure. The average increase is small, but the actual amount of increase can vary widely from individual to individual. This effect occurs at doses that are typically used for pain relief and reduction of inflammation. Moreover, these drugs can reduce the effect of many types of drugs used to treat elevated blood pressure. The effect on blood pressure seems to be due to a reduction in excretion of sodium and increased retention of water. Studies of NSAIDs showed that only low-dose aspirin (81 mg a day) did not have measurable effects on blood pressure.

Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and other drugs, has been shown in some studies to cause a mild increase in blood pressure, but it hasn't been associated with stroke or heart attack. Still, this medication has its own side effects and poses a risk of liver damage when taken in overly large doses. Prolonged use at high doses can also cause kidney failure.