While many may think of anti-inflammatories and pain relievers as interchangeable medications, the two can serve very different purposes. Both do alleviate pain and fever but do so in very different ways. Anti-inflammatory medications provide pain relief by reducing swelling and inflammation in the body that is suspected to be the source of the pain, while also addressing elevated temperatures. Other pain relievers will typically alleviate discomfort and reduce fevers in their users, but will not offer an anti-inflammatory component. It is important to consider the source of the ailment to know which type of medication will best address the symptoms. Additionally, there are several other aspects to consider when deciding whether to take anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medication. Get to know the most prominent differences now.
Effects Of An Overdose
All medication can be harmful when too much is consumed. This is especially true for anti-inflammatories. The most typical symptoms experienced with an overdose of anti-inflammatory medications are nausea, drowsiness, and headache. With more severe levels of overdose, and particularly those involving a simultaneous overdose of another substance, serious outcomes include seizures or even death.
The effects of an overdose of pain relievers such as acetaminophen can also be dangerous. Like anti-inflammatories, symptoms of a pain reliever overdose include nausea, but also a burning sensation in the stomach, yellowing skin or eyes, and bleeding or bruising. Pain relievers are more commonly involved in overdoses than anti-inflammatories, as they can be an ingredient in many different over-the-counter drugs and it can be easy to consume an excessive amount without realizing it. It is important to always read the labels on medication and only take as much as indicated on the directions or prescribed by a doctor.
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Different Medical Conditions Make Them Inappropriate For Use
Before taking any anti-inflammatory or pain reliever medications, it is important to consider other diagnoses. In some cases, different medical conditions make these medications inappropriate for use, so patients must be informed to remain healthy and safe. Anti-inflammatories can be very dangerous for individuals with congestive heart failure or those at risk for heart disease or attack, as these medications will increase blood pressure and increase the likelihood of a cardiac event. Because of potential side effects of anti-inflammatories on the blood, individuals taking anticoagulants, diagnosed with platelet issues, or prepping for surgery should avoid taking this medication. Acetaminophen-based pain relievers can contribute to liver and renal failure, so it is important for individuals who have been drinking alcohol and patients with kidney or liver disease speak to their doctor before taking this medication.
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Only Anti-Inflammatories Affect Inflammation
While both anti-inflammatories and pain relievers can reduce discomfort and high temperatures, only anti-inflammatories affect inflammation. Pain relievers are engineered to block enzymes in the peripheral and central nervous systems to reduce pain and provide relief. These medications are best for treating fever, headaches, and minor pain. If the discomfort is stemming from an injury accompanied by swelling, an anti-inflammatory is the only medication that will address both the pain and inflammation. Individuals with chronic illnesses that cause inflammation, such as arthritis or tendonitis, should also choose anti-inflammatories over general pain relievers.
It's essential to determine the root of the pain to know which type of medication will best target the symptoms. Learn more about this now.
Effectiveness For Symptom Relief
Choosing the correct type of anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medication for the specific ailments involved will impact the effectiveness of symptom relief. Acetaminophen, a general pain relief medication, has the lowest strength of the most commonly utilized pain and fever medications, so it is intended for minor aches and pains and as a first line of relief for a fever or slight injury. This pain reliever remains in the body for less time than other medications as well, so will need to be taken more often for continued pain and fever relief. Anti-inflammatories are slightly more potent than pain relievers and are most effective for injuries and ailments associated with swelling and inflammation. These medications also work longer in the bloodstream, so they are effective for longer than pain relievers and need to be taken less often.
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Effect On The Digestive System
Both anti-inflammatories and pain relievers can affect the digestive system. Anti-inflammatories commonly cause digestive symptoms including esophageal reflux, stomach irritation, and ulcers. These medications weaken the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and stomach, as well as the lining of the stomach, making both more susceptible to the acids produced in this organ. Individuals who take anti-inflammatories regularly for chronic conditions are at even greater risk of these digestive conditions. Taking a proton pump inhibitor along with the anti-inflammatories can help to reduce stomach acid and subsequent damage. Pain relievers do not typically irritate or impact the digestive system, so these can be a safer choice for those needing general pain or fever relief.