The Risks and Problems

How Much Trouble Can One Little Pill Cause?

First we should look at exactly what aspirin is. It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID, sold over the counter. Other aspirin containing NSAIDs, found at any drug counter are Excedrin, Bufferin, and Ecotrin to name a few, and those are just the ones sold over the counter; there are also a myriad of prescription NSAIDs available. Each has a long list of adverse reactions to consider because, after all, they are drugs.

Aspirin is primarily used to relieve minor pain, reduce inflammation, and reduce fever, and when taken in the proper dosage it is very effective. However, as with any other drug, improper use or overdose can lead to major problems. Therefore, when taken for a short time it is considered safe for use and presents no significant health risk, but, long term use can lead to many undesirable health issues.

In this article we have concentrated on the effects of a long term daily regimen of low dose therapy. You need to be well informed about the possible reactions, risks or adverse effects, and benefits you might receive from this one small pill every day taken for a long time. We hope that the material provided – both pro and con – will help you when you talk with your physician to make a well-informed, long term decision that you will be comfortable with.

Allergic Reactions or Hypersensitivity (Note: never take aspirin if it smells vinegary. It means it is past its prime and should be disposed of.)

All of the symptoms listed below can be indicators of a severe and life threatening condition called anaphylaxis, and if noted, you should seek medical attention immediately for an aspirin allergic reaction:

  • black or bloody stools
  • confusion
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • hearing loss
  • rashes, hives, itching
  • red and inflamed eyes
  • ringing in the ears
  • runny nose
  • severe or consistent stomach pain
  • swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue
  • tightness in chest
  • unusual bruising
  • vomiting
  • wheezing

Asthmatics are generally advised against using aspirin since 10-30% are hypersensitive, and may have severe bronchospasms brought on by aspirin use.
A number of years ago an adverse connection was discovered between aspirin use in children with acute viral illness resulting in Reye’s syndrome, a serious condition typified by vomiting, neurologic dysfunction and hepatic dysfunction during or shortly following the viral infection. Since that time, it is advised that infants and children not be given aspirin.

Possible Adverse Effects

All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or only minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most common side effects persist or become bothersome when using aspirin:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Upset Stomach

Although the gastrointestinal system is the site of the most common minor adverse side effects of aspirin use, stomach pain, nausea, heart burn and vomiting, reported in as many as 83% of patients treated with regular aspirin, prolonged use in some patients can lead to gastrointestinal complications such as stomach ulcers or internal bleeding which may go undetected until they become serious conditions. This seems to be more prevalent in elderly patients, where evident bleeding has been as high as 3%. There has also been one study where results showed a relationship between aspirin use and appendicitis.

An increased possibility of cranial hemorrhagic stroke has been reported due to aspirin’s action as blood thinner; it works to prevent platelet formation, which keeps the blood from clotting. Clots are the body’s way of patching small tears in veins and stopping leaks which would means that a small bump on the head or minor injury could turn into a much more serious condition.

Other central nervous system side effects could include agitation, coma, confusion, dizziness, headache, seizures, and cerebral edema. Aspirin abuse is noted to cause tinnitus and/or subjective hearing loss, however, some research has indicated that even small doses may decrease frequency selectivity, reducing hearing performance, especially in situations with a lot of background noise.

In some therapy modalities using large doses of aspirin cardiovascular side effects have been recorded that include ventricular irregularity, drop in blood pressure, conduction abnormalities, and salicylate-induced variant angina.

The high doses of NSAIDs given to heart failure and cirrhosis patients have produced acute renal failure in rare instances.

Rare occurrences of various types of anemia and eosinophilia have been reported in patients undergoing aspirin treatment.

Previous studies have shown that aspirin-induced asthma effects up to 21% of people who take NSAIDs.

Hemodialysis patients have exhibited a variety of problems including hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

Aspirin and other NSAIDs exit the body through the kidneys and can damage them, if taken for a prolonged period of time. This risk is increased by certain medical conditions and alcoholism.

Cases of periorbital edema – or puffiness – around the eyes have been reported.

Aspirin has been reported to cause shortness of breath.

Women are advised against taking aspirin during pregnancy since there is a possibility of risk shown to the fetus with aspirin use. It is also considered unsafe during lactation.


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Judi Shirey: Judi is freelance writer for the She has a degree in Journalism and worked in the medical field for 40 years. If you would like to contact Judi you may reach her at


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