Guide To Diclofenac (Voltaren)

Diclofenac, which can be sold under the brand Voltaren, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). The medication's goal is to reduce the substances the body creates that lead to inflammation and pain. Prescription diclofenac typically comes in suppositories, capsules, and tablets. In the hospital, it may be administered in an eyedrop or injection form. However, this use does not tend to be regular. The topical form is quite common, particularly without a prescription.

Many patients take diclofenac for pain relief. It can be used topically as a mild muscle pain treatment. This is also a medication for arthritis, including both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. One brand is even approved as a medication for severe menstrual cramps. Powdered diclofenac can even be used as a migraine treatment in some patients. Of course, understanding this medication is crucial before using it as a pain treatment.

How It Works

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Diclofenac is used to alleviate pain and inflammation. The class of medications it belongs to, NSAIDs, do not use steroids to prevent inflammation, so they are often accessible to a broader range of individuals. At the same time, they work similarly to steroids to suppress the actions of the body. This medication specifically works on cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes. These are chemicals that the body produces that work to create substances known as prostaglandins. When the body is damaged or injured, prostaglandins are made around the injury. These substances cause inflammation and pain. This medication blocks cyclo-oxygenase enzymes from making as many prostaglandins. In turn, this reduces the inflammation and pain in the body. 

Diclofenac is available in sodium and potassium forms. The potassium form is absorbed more quickly, so it allows for immediate pain relief. However, the sodium form has better results when it comes to reducing inflammation over longer periods. There are several different brands of this drug, some of which include additional medicines to help with symptoms.

Continue reading to learn about the uses for this medication next.

Uses And Benefits

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The main use of this medication is to treat general aches and pains. However, it can have a more specific effect on problems with the bones, muscles, and joints. The medication is often prescribed for diseases that attack the joints and bones, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and osteoarthritis. It might also be prescribed temporarily for a strain or sprain in ligaments or muscles. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe it to treat chronic back pain and inflammation. Certain brands are made specifically to treat migraines, menstrual cramps, and toothaches. Also, the medication is sometimes used to treat ankylosing spondylitis, which leads to inflammation of the spine. 

Get the details on the potential side effects of this medication next.

Potential Side Effects

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Every medication has the potential to cause side effects. Diclofenac is no different, though not everyone will experience side effects. Most of the side effects tend to be mild. Common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomachache, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, and a mild rash. The gel and plaster forms of diclofenac tend to cause fewer side effects because patients ingest less medicine. 

If individuals use topical plasters or gel on their skin, they might experience skin-based side effects. It is common for the skin to develop a rash, become sensitive to sunlight, become dried and irritated, or become itchy where the medication was placed. There are also rare side effects like an allergic reaction, inflammation in the stomach, bleeding in the stomach, heart failure, liver issues, stroke, or a heart attack.

Discover precautions to remember when taking this medication next.

Precautions To Remember

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Most adults can take diclofenac, though some cannot. Individuals with Crohn's disease, blood clotting disorder, or lupus should not take this medication. Patients must inform their doctor of their full medical history. This includes information on kidney disease, liver disease, stomach ulcers, and high blood pressure. Patients should also talk to their doctor if they have had an allergic reaction to other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Doctors must also know if their patient is suffering from heart failure or another cardiovascular condition. Children may be able to use this medication for joint issues. They may take the oral form of this medication if they are more than one year old.

Continue reading to uncover the potential medication interactions next.

Potential Medication Interactions

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Diclofenac has not been reported to cause serious interactions with many medications. However, it has mild and moderate reactions with more than 350 other medications. Thus, patients must inform their doctor about all of their current medications and supplements. They must know about blood pressure or heart medications, even if it is just a diuretic. It is also important for patients to tell them if they take diclofenac in another form. This is to ensure that their dose does not become too high. 

Blood thinners can lead to serious interactions as well, particularly for patients with clotting disorders. Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might interact with this one. As such, individuals should not generally take multiple NSAIDs at the same time. Some herbal products, vitamins, and over-the-counter medicines can also interact with the medication.

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    Katherine MacAulay