Over-The-Counter Medications and Your Kidneys

These days, it is very easy to get over-the-counter medications that may not disclose just how impactful they actually are. It can be easy to see these medications as your first line of defense against pain, headaches, and anything in-between. However, while they may be relieving short-term pain, the medications can have long-term impacts on other aspects of your health, specifically if you already face kidney issues. 

Over-The-Counter Medications and Your Kidneys

Your kidneys are often impacted by factors you had not considered before. One of these is certain instances of over-the-counter medications. At Durham Nephrology, we are committed to helping you keep your kidneys as healthy as possible. 

Medications To Watch Out For 

There are certain medications that you should avoid when keeping the health of your kidneys in mind. Most of these fall into the category of pain killers, however, there are other outliers as well. One of the most important things you can do is discuss medications with your doctor before taking any that are not prescribed by them. The National Kidney Foundation discusses the possibility of kidney damage from large amounts of over-the-counter pain medications. This includes aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen. 

Effect On Kidney Function

If these medications have already started to have an effect on your kidney function, you may notice it in specific ways. According to Village Emergency Centers, medications such as Ibuprofen can block body chemicals that contribute to blood vessels dilating. This dilation can reduce blood flow to the kidneys. While this does play a role in reducing the pain from headaches, it also doesn’t allow for as much oxygen to pass through the kidneys. 

The real problem stems from the overuse of these over-the-counter medications. This can contribute to developing chronic kidney disease, and chronic interstitial nephritis. This is often why there is a disclaimer on these medications to not take longer than 10 days, even if headaches persist. If they do persist, this is the time to contact your doctor about what is going on. 

Which Ones Are Safe? 

Not all over-the-counter medications are unsafe for your kidneys. According to the National Kidney Foundation, one of the most chosen drugs for occasional use for people with kidney problems by doctors is acetaminophen. This is due to the bleeding complications that can sometimes come from Aspirin use instead. However, even this medication must be paired with your doctor monitoring your kidney and overall health.

It is important to note that most problems with the kidneys occur when these over-the-counter medications are not used as directed on the packaging. Overuse and prolonged use each play a role in doing damage to the kidneys over time. That is why it is essential to discuss new medication with your doctor, especially with previously documented issues with the kidneys.   

How Do Doctors Determine If There Is Harm? 

There are blood tests that can help doctors determine if these over-the-counter medications have taken a toll on your kidney health. The most common test is called a serum creatinine level. Mount Sinai discusses that creatinine is a chemical made in the body, however, the kidneys remove it entirely from the body. If the kidneys are not functioning properly, this test will show higher levels of creatinine in the blood. 

With the ease at which you can purchase over-the-counter pain medications, sharing their influence on other parts of the body is vital. While not all offer the same level of impact, those that do should be taken carefully and under the watchful understanding of a medical professional. Are you interested in more information on over-the-counter medications and your kidneys? Durham Nephrology is here to provide you with the insight you need. Check out our website or give us a call at (919) 477-3005 to find out more today! 


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