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Painkillers are meant to be taken for pain. If you’re taking them for other reasons, you might be exposed to potential risks that come with too excessive usage. For instance, they can cause serious stomach problems. (1) Knowing more about these effects can help you avoid any unpleasant effects on your body.
Read on to find out what might happen if you take too many painkillers and what other medications work best for relieving the pain.
What Happens to Your Stomach If You Take Too Many Painkillers?
Taking too many painkillers can have a number of negative effects on your stomach:
1. It can lead to gastritis
Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Consuming too many painkillers can lead to inflammation of the stomach, which can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. (1)
2. It may lead to ulcers
Taking too many painkillers can also lead to ulcers, which are open sores that form in the lining of the stomach or small intestine. Ulcers can cause a range of symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, belching, and weight loss.
If left untreated, ulcers can bleed and lead to a host of other serious problems. (2)
3. It may increase your risk of pancreatitis
Taking too many painkillers is also a risk factor for developing pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and weight loss.
4. It may lead to bleeding in the stomach
The blood can come from the lining of the stomach or from ulcers that form in the stomach. (5) If the bleeding is severe, it can lead to anemia, which is a condition where your body does not have enough iron-containing red blood cells.
Anemia can make you feel tired and weak. If you have severe anemia, you may need a blood transfusion. (6)
Other Effects of Taking Too Many Painkillers
1. Liver damage
If you take too many painkillers, you may also be at risk of liver damage. The liver is responsible for breaking down drugs in the body.
When you take too many painkillers, the liver cannot keep up with the demand, gets overworked, and starts to break down. This can lead to a buildup of toxins in the body and eventually liver failure. Liver failure can be fatal. (7)
2. Kidney damage
Painkillers can damage your kidneys if they’re not taken as directed. Some of the complications that can occur due to excessive intake of painkillers are acute kidney injury, nephropathy (death of the kidney cells), and alteration in the blood flow within the tubules of the kidneys. Over time, this damage can lead to kidney failure. (8)
It is important to seek medical help if you develop any of these symptoms after taking painkillers, especially if you have taken too many.
Alternatives to Painkillers and Preventing Abdominal Issues
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think twice about popping an over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller when you have a headache or cramps. After all, these medications are generally safe and effective. However, taking too many painkillers can lead to serious stomach problems. (1)
Painkillers work by blocking pain signals from your brain to your body. This can help to relieve pain in the short term. However, it also means that your brain isn’t getting important information about what’s going on in your body.
To avoid these risks, it’s important to only take painkillers as directed by your doctor or pharmacist. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.
To deal with stomach ulcers caused by painkillers:
- Recognize the symptoms.
- Consult a doctor as soon as possible.
- Do not self-medicate, as the medication may cause untoward interactions.
- Consume a bland diet that is low in spices and easily digestible. Fried food, spices, seeds, nuts, acidic fruits (berries, grapes, oranges, lemons, and limes), whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, ice cream, non-lean meat (beef, fried fish, chicken with attached skin), dressings and sauces, pickles, alcohol, strong cheeses, and vegetables that cause flatulence (cabbage, cauliflower, onion, pepper) are all to be avoided. (9)
Alternatives to painkillers
A number of alternatives to painkillers can provide relief from pain and other symptoms. These include home remedies and natural supplements.
- Home remedies such as applying heat or ice to the affected area can help. (10)
- Natural supplements such as ginger, turmeric, and omega-3 fatty acids may also provide some relief. (11)
If you’re looking for alternatives to painkillers, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what might be right for you.
If you’re struggling with painkiller addiction, don’t worry because a number of treatment options are available. Treatment can help you stop using painkillers and manage any withdrawal symptoms you may experience.
What are the treatment options for stomach ulcers due to intake of too many painkillers?
Several different treatments are available for stomach ulcers, depending on their severity.
For milder ulcers, over-the-counter antacids or acid blockers can be effective in reducing symptoms. More severe ulcers may require prescription medications, such as proton pump inhibitors or H2 receptor antagonists.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the ulcer or repair any damage to the stomach lining. (2)
Do I need to undergo surgery for a small stomach ulcer?
If you have a stomach ulcer, it is important to talk to your doctor about the best treatment option for you. Over-the-counter medications may not be enough to treat a severe ulcer, and prescription medications come with their own risks and side effects. Surgery should only be considered as a last resort.
When taking painkillers, it’s important to be aware of their potential consequences on your stomach and other organs. While painkillers can be an effective way to manage pain, they can also irritate the lining of your stomach and lead to ulcers if not taken the right way.
If you’re concerned about the amount of painkillers you’re taking, talk to your doctor for alternatives.