Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory drug that falls under a drug class called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
How does aspirin work?
NSAIDs like aspirin work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals secreted by the body in response to injury or inflammation. These chemicals can cause the affected part to swell, leading to pain.
Unlike steroids, aspirin and other NSAIDs do not cause unwanted side effects. They are also different from narcotic pain relievers (such as morphine), which cause decreased sensibility and have a dangerous potential for addiction.
What is aspirin used for?
Pain and swelling
Aspirin can help alleviate mild to moderate pain or swelling associated with:
If your pain is severe, your doctor may recommend using another NSAID or pain reliever alongside aspirin.
Preventing heart attacks
Daily low-dose aspirin can help prevent the formation of blood clots that block vessels and cause heart attacks. However, it is not safe for everyone and should be taken only under medical supervision.
Your doctor may recommend daily use of low-dose aspirin if you:
- Have heart disease
- Have diabetes
- Have high blood cholesterol
- Have hypertension (high blood pressure)
After heart attack or stroke
After a heart attack or stroke, your doctor may administer aspirin to prevent the further formation of blood clots. Aspirin may also be prescribed after heart surgery, such as an angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery.
Aspirin can also be used in the treatment of:
- Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Pericarditis (inflammation around the heart)
People at risk of colorectal cancer, taking antihypertensive medications or who have had diabetes for more than a decade may also be recommended to take low-dose aspirin. Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking aspirin for these conditions.
How much aspirin should I take?
Always follow instructions on the label or follow your doctor’s guidance. Your doctor can recommend a dose that is right for you.
- Daily low-dose aspirin is typically between 75-150 milligrams.
- Higher doses for pain relief may be around 325 milligrams, depending on the condition being treated
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Mayo Clinic. Daily aspirin therapy: Understand the benefits and risks. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/daily-aspirin-therapy/art-20046797