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The use of aspirin

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

 Aspirin is one of the most common drugs in use today. It has been in use since the 1890ís and has proven to be a drug of many uses in that time.

 What is aspirin?

 Aspirin is the general name for acetylsalicylic acid (ASA); it is also the trademark of the drug produced by Bayer in Germany. In eighty countries, aspirin is a registered trademark, but in other places the term aspirin refers to ASA by itself or as an ingredient in other drugs.

 The synthetic drug was developed as an analgesic (painkiller) and this is still the main purpose of the drug in most peopleís minds. It was the first NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), and probably still the most effective.

 Two complete families of drugs have been developed from ASA in the years since 1897.

 How does it work?

 When you are injured, your body produces prostaglandins which are complex fatty acids that act like hormones within body tissues. Prostaglandins act by stimulating the dilation (getting bigger) of blood vessels and muscle contraction; they are also the start of you feeling pain.

 Aspirin appears to stop the production of prostaglandins by attaching to an enzyme, and thus stops the pain message reaching your brain. By reducing the production of a prostaglandin called thromboxane, aspirin can also prevent blood clotting and acts as an anticoagulant. This is an important clinical use in heart patients.

 As aspirin is absorbed into the blood stream, it can travel to all parts of the body; prostaglandin production is high only in injured areas so aspirin is only effective in those areas and thus relieves the pain wherever it is felt.

 By preventing prostaglandin production, aspirin is also reducing some necessary body functions. A single tablet every so often wonít have much impact on these functions, but care must be taken in regular users. Taking aspirin for pain relief for a wound can actually slow healing as platelets canít clot to form scabs. Drugs based on aspirin, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen (Tylenol,) have been developed to avoid some of these adverse effects.

 What is it used for?

 During its history, aspirin has been found to have a number of uses besides pain relief. Many experiments have been carried out to test aspirinís abilities in various areas and potential side effects, and some areas are still under investigation.

 Current uses of aspirin include:

v     Over-the-counter pain relief, especially for headaches

v     Reduction of swelling and inflammation in arthritis and injuries

v     Anti-coagulant given to sufferers of heart attack, mini-stroke and unstable angina

v     Can reduce severity of heart attack if taken at first symptoms

v     Recovery after cardiovascular surgery (eg bypass operation)

v     Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other rheumatoid diseases

 Possible benefits of aspirin are being researched in:

v     Migraine treatment

v     Improving circulation in the gums

v     Fighting ovarian, breast and colon cancer

v     Prevention of cataracts

v     Controlling pre-eclampsia

v     Improving brain function, especially memory

v     Reducing colorectal cancer repeating

v     Prevention of adult leukaemia

v     Prevention of HIV replicating

v     Reduce prostrate cancer risk

v     Increasing success rates of IVF programs

 Is it suitable for everyone to use?

 In short, no it isnít.

 Aspirin isnít advised for the following groups without medical advice:

v     Children under 16

v     Asthmatics

v     Women in last trimester of pregnancy (can bring on labour & harm baby)

v     Anyone under 20 with a fever

v     People with bleeding disorders

v     Anyone with an ulcer or persistent stomach problems

v     Diabetics on medication

v     Breastfeeding mothers

v     Heavy alcohol drinkers

v     Healthy people for more than ten days

v     G6P deficiency diseases

v     Reduced kidney function or liver disease

v     People on low sodium diets (buffered aspirin tablets contain sodium) 

Are there any side effects?

 Like all drugs, there are some risks of side effects from aspirin. Many are uncommon enough to be considered an acceptable risk for most patients, but there are some significant risks attached. Healthy people using aspirin occasionally as directed are unlikely to develop serious side effects.

 The use of aspirin in children and teenagers with a fever, especially after a viral infection, has been associated with the development of a potentially fatal condition called Reye Syndrome. For that reason, it is recommended to NEVER GIVE ASPIRIN TO ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 16 or to anyone under 20 who has a fever.

Overdoses with aspirin are quite common and it is essential to keep them out of reach of children.

Aspirin can irritate the stomach, leading to nausea and vomiting, so it is best taken with or just after food. Other problems may be ringing in the ears, excessive bleeding, heartburn, indigestion and allergic reactions.

 Analgesics like aspirin are excreted via the kidneys, and thus have the power to damage the kidneys and long term, low dose usage reduces renal function. Certain medical conditions and heavy drinking increase the risk of kidney damage.

Note: NEVER take aspirin if it has a vinegary smell as this means it is ďoffĒ.

Aspirin is an effective, useful drug when taken as directed and/or under medical supervision; however, it needs to be treated with respect.


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses in preparing all written documentation and web site content. Tash also writes parenting and business articles for inclusion in newsletter and web sites.



© 2003, Tash Hughes

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