Since it was first introduced in 1971, aspirin has become one of the most frequently consumed medications in the world. It is estimated that the world production of aspirin is 45,000 tons per year .
Aspirin is a very common medicine used to alleviate a lot of symptoms such as: headaches, fever, back pain and the common cold. It is, however, a drug, and like other medicines, it carries certain risks if it is taken for long periods of time.
Below are some of the risks associated with prolonged aspirin consumption:
- Hemorrhagic stroke – Although daily use may help prevent a stroke that is a result of a blood clot, apirin can increase the risk of a bleeding stroke because it is a blood thinner. Long term aspirin use was associated with increased risks of ischemic stroke in women and hemorrhagic stroke in elderly .
- Stomach bleeding – Using aspirin for long periods of time puts you at a greater risk for stomach ulcers. If you already have a stomach ulcer, it can make it worse and the aspirin use can be life-threatening in some cases.
- Allergic reaction – Make sure you are not allergic to aspirin before you start your treatment, because if you are allergic, then any amount of the medicine may cause a serious allergic reaction. Signs that you may be allergic to aspirin include: hives, itchy skin, runny nose, red eyes, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath.
- Tinnitus – Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, is also a side effect of overdose and can put you at a higher risk of hearing loss .
- Excessive bleeding during surgery – If you are taking a daily dose and are scheduled for surgery or for dental work, make sure you tell your doctor, because you may be at risk for excessive bleeding during or after the procedure.
- Possible drug interactions – Make sure you speak with your doctor if you are taking other drugs and are planning to take aspirin for an extended period of time. Certain medicines, when combined with aspirin, do not give their desired effect, and others may put you at a greater risk for bleeding. Some of the medicines and herbal treatments tht should not be taken with aspirin are: Warfarin (Coumadin), Heparin, Corticosteroids, some antidepressants (clomipramine, paroxetine, etc), and regular use of Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc).
If you have certain diseases or conditions, a dosage adjustment may be necessary as your doctor sees fit. The conditions that affect aspirin dosage include asthma, stomach ulcers, liver or kidney disease, gout, nasal polyps, and heart disease.
Just because aspirin is an over-the-counter drug, it does not mean that it comes with no risks. Short-term use should not cause any serious side effects, except in cases of aspirin allergy. Long-term use, however, carries certain risks and you should check with your doctor if the benefits outweigh the risks before deciding to make aspirin intake a part of your daily regimen. Talk to your doctor about coated aspirin because in certain cases, it may be gentler on the stomach and may reduce certain risks and side effects.
In conclusion, the key to reducing aspirin risks is to use it in moderation and to watch out for any signs that something may be wrong, such as easy bruising or bleeding, black stools or severe stomach pain. A doctor must be consulted before long-term use of aspirin treatment.