Aspirin, otherwise known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a salicylate and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. As a matter of fact, this century-old drug was the first NSAID to ever be discovered.
Like all NSAIDs, aspirin comes with analgesic (pain relief), antipyretic (fever reduction), and anti-inflammatory benefits.
A universal pain reliever and one of the most widely used medications in the world, aspirin effectively manages all kinds of pain, from moderate to severe, and swelling caused by different conditions, such as migraine, toothache, and arthritis.
Aspirin is also commonly prescribed to patients with coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque buildup (made of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin) hardens and narrows the arteries, impeding the healthy flow of blood.
Low-Dose Aspirin Therapy For Stroke And Heart Disease
Taken every day in low doses (75 milligrams per day), aspirin works as an antiplatelet medication. It reduces the possibility of heart attack and stroke by blocking the inflammation-causing enzyme cyclooxygenase and slowing down blood clot formation.
Patients who had gone through heart-related medical treatment procedures — including coronary artery bypass graft operation, angioplasty, and stent placement — or who suffered from a heart attack or a stroke are put on low-dose aspirin therapy for the rest of their lives.
Doctors also typically include aspirin in the list of maintenance medications prescribed to people with high blood cholesterol levels, hypertension, diabetes, acute coronary syndrome, and atrial fibrillation.
Aspirin Side Effects: Is It Worth The Risk?
Ironically, while the efficacy of low-dose aspirin therapy in reducing the likelihood of blood-clot related stroke is undeniable, the drug increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke or a bleeding stroke, which is caused by a rupture of the arteries supplying blood to the brain.
Aside from bleeding in the brain, one alarming side effect of aspirin is gastrointestinal bleeding. Daily aspirin therapy reportedly makes patients susceptible to developing stomach ulcers. Aspirin may cause excessive bleeding or exacerbate any bleeding condition to a life-threatening extent. This is why people previously diagnosed with peptic ulcer, hemophilia, and any other bleeding disorder is advised against taking this drug.
Potential Drug Interactions With Aspirin Therapy
Aspirin does not go along well with several prescription drugs, with bad combinations worsening bleeding risks in patients.
This is true for anticoagulants or blood thinners (warfarin, clopidogrel, and apixaban), painkillers (ibuprofen, diclofenac, and naproxen), antidepressants (citalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, venlafaxine, and sertraline), and dietary supplements (bilberry, capsaicin, evening primrose oil, and omega-3 fatty acids).
To avoid getting into any health issues, Dr. Steven Feinleib, an internist at the Cleveland Clinic, stressed the importance of disclosing all medications to health care providers, especially over-the-counter medications or supplements, before getting into low-dose aspirin therapy, or any treatment program for that matter.