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What Is the Connection between Ibuprofen and Kidney Disease?

By Marlene Garcia
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The connection between ibuprofen and kidney damage might appear suddenly or after long-term use, depending on several risk factors. People with kidney disease might suffer acute kidney failure when using this nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). The link between ibuprofen and kidney disease might also be diagnosed as analgesic nephropathy, a condition that might occur with long-term use of ibuprofen or other NSAID medication. Acute conditions might be reversible with dialysis, although nephropathy could cause permanent damage.

Ibuprofen is sold over the counter and used to relieve pain. It works by disrupting the body’s production of the hormone prostaglandin. The drug might be purchased under several brand names or in its generic form to treat arthritis, severe toothache pain, fever, headache, and other disorders.

Researchers found a connection between ibuprofen and kidney disease after experiments using patients with kidney disorders. One study reported acute kidney failure within a few days in three of 12 female study participants given high doses of the drug. When scientists repeated the test with recommended dosages, kidneys failed in two of the three women. The remaining nine women suffered varying degrees of kidney dysfunction at high doses, but all participants recovered once they stopped taking the medication.

Ibuprofen and kidney disease risk might be addressed by using the lowest dose possible to relieve pain, and using it for short periods of time. Patients who suffer from conditions that restrict blood flow and patients with lupus should discuss ibuprofen use with their doctors. Risks generally are higher in older patients and those who drink excessively.

This medication and other analgesic drugs are excreted by the kidneys, but are not broken down by the liver before leaving the body. They might disrupt normal blood flow in people with heart or circulatory disorders if used over a long period. Patients who experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or slurred speech while using ibuprofen should seek medical help.

Periodic medical examinations might help diagnose kidney problems when they first appear, and could address ibuprofen and kidney disease risk factors. Physicians typically advise against using the medication with any other NSAID drug, including aspirin, to prevent overdose. This might be especially important for patients who take aspirin daily as a preventive measure against stroke or heart attack.

Other side effects of the drug include irritation to the stomach that might cause bleeding. Some patients decrease stomach irritation by taking ibuprofen with food and avoiding alcohol, which increases the risk of bleeding. Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation might also occur.

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Discussion Comments

By burcinc — On May 13, 2013

I've heard that there is a strong connection between liver damage and ibuprofen, but I don't think the connection is so strong with kidney disease.

If an organ is already damaged from other health issues, medications and toxins, of course pain relievers can make things worse.

That's why I always ask my family doctor before I start taking any over-the-counter medications.

By candyquilt — On May 12, 2013

@SarahGen-- Don't be surprised, ibuprofen is broken down and removed by the kidneys. Any drug that is broken down in the kidney has the potential to damage it in the long term.

The good part about that study is that the damaged reversed itself when the medication was no longer taken. This means that by taking ibuprofen only when really necessary and taking the smallest effective dose can help prevent kidney damage.

By SarahGen — On May 12, 2013

I can't believe that they actually did studies with ibuprofen where the participants developed kidney failure! That's terrible. I'm surprised at both the effects of the ibuprofen and at the participants who put themselves at risk with that study!

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