Treating Arthritis With Naproxen

A Popular NSAID

Naprosyn (naproxen) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat certain types of arthritis, acute inflammatory conditions, and menstrual cramps. Naproxen is available in prescription strength and as Aleve, an over-the-counter (OTC) formulation. Before taking naproxen, you should check with your doctor.

Common side effects of Naproxen
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Indications

Naproxen is commonly prescribed to relieve signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, tendonitis, and bursitis. It is used to reduce inflammation, joint stiffness, and joint pain.

Availability

OTC naproxen is available as a generic and by several brand names, such as Aleve. Prescription-strength naproxen comes as a regular tablet, enteric-coated tablet, extended-release tablet, and as a liquid suspension to take orally.

The typical dose of naproxen is 250 milligrams (mg), 375 mg, or 500 mg, taken twice a day—in the morning and evening for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis.

Enteric-coated naproxen is usually taken in doses of 375 mg or 500 mg twice a day. Your doctor can adjust your dose based on how you are responding to the drug.

Special Instructions

Many doctors instruct patients to take naproxen with food. Some resources say that naproxen can be taken with or without food. Other resources suggest taking it with a full glass of water.

To prevent stomach upset, you can take it with food or milk. If stomach upset occurs, consult your doctor. They may recommend that you take an antacid.

Contraindications

Patients who have had episodes of asthma, rhinitis, or nasal polyps after taking aspirin or other NSAIDs should not take naproxen. Aspirin-sensitive patients should not take naproxen.

Be sure your doctor knows about any previous drug reactions. Patients who have had ulcers, stomach bleeding, severe kidney problems, or severe liver problems may not be candidates for treatment with naproxen.

Common Side Effects

Diarrhea, constipation, gas, mouth sores, headache, dizziness, thirst, lightheadedness, drowsiness, tingling in arms and legs, cold symptoms, ringing in the ears, hearing problems, and trouble falling or staying asleep are all possible side effects associated with naproxen.

Special Warnings and Precautions

Problems with stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding can occur with any NSAID, and naproxen is no exception. Typically, these problems are tied to long-term use of the drug, but not always—short-term use of naproxen or other NSAIDs can be problematic for some people.

Stomach ulcers and bleeding can occur without warning. Signs can include burning stomach pain, black stools, or vomiting. Call your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Liver damage can occur in people taking NSAIDs like naproxen. Warning signs include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, appetite loss, itching, yellowing of the skin or eyes, and dark urine.

Naproxen can cause fluid retention and swelling in the body. NSAIDs like naproxen have also been linked to increased blood pressure.

NSAIDs, including naproxen, are associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, and new onset or worsening of pre-existing hypertension (high blood pressure). Cardiovascular risk may be increased with longer duration of use of naproxen or pre-existing cardiovascular disease.

Pregnant or Nursing Women

Women who are pregnant are advised not to take naproxen, especially during the last 3 months of pregnancy. Women who are nursing should also not take naproxen.

Potential Drug Interactions

Naproxen can have serious adverse reactions to certain drugs. Drugs which can cause interactions to include:

  • Aspirin
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Diuretics, such as furosemide; and triamterene
  • Lithium

Signs of Overdose

As with any medication, there can be severe consequences of taking excessive doses of naproxen. An overdose of naproxen or other NSAIDs can cause nausea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Other serious potential consequences of overdose include kidney and liver damage, meningitis, circulatory collapse, and even death. Be sure to take naproxen only as directed.

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  1. Brutzkus JC, Varacallo M. Naproxen. [Updated 2019 Oct 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.

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