What is ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a medication that belongs to the class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It is used for treatment of fevers, swelling, and pain relief. It causes thinning of the blood but not to as great of a degree as other medications such aspirin and it is considered to have vasodilation effects. Ibuprofen was discovered in 1961 as a derivative of propanoic acid by researchers from the Boots Group. Today it is sold under the names of Motrin, Nurofen, Advil, and Nuprin just to name a few. There are also many generic versions of ibuprofen sold as well. Ibuprofen is available over the counter meaning no prescription is necessary for the purchase of it.
How does ibuprofen work?
Ibuprofen and all NSAID drugs for that matter work by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase which is abbreviated as COX. The inhibition of this enzyme leads to the inhibition of other enzymes which promotes the production of prostaglandins which are the enzymes responsible for ibuprofen's effects on pain, fever reduction, and inflammation. Ibuprofen is not a selective inhibitor of COX meaning it inhibits both COX-1 and COX-2. COX-2 is what is believed to be largely responsible for ibuprofen's therapeutic effects. Research suggests that it is ibuprofen's action upon COX-1 which is responsible for many of its undesirable side effects particularly on the gastrointestinal tract of some patients. Recently, NSAIDs have been developed which are selective to only COX-2 and have been shown to have less negative side effects than traditional NSAIDs. They are only available by prescription at this point in time.
One of ibuprofen's most wide spread uses is as an anti-inflammatory medication. It has been shown to be effective in reducing inflammation and swelling for minor to severe injuries. In low doses however it is not effective in actively reducing swelling and instead acts only as an analgesic. An analgesic is just a term for anything that functions to reduce pain. The recommended over the counter dosage is only effective as an analgesic in most people who are taking it. Often a doctor will recommend four times the over the counter dose be taken to combat severe swelling. This dosage is effective as an anti-inflammatory but is not good for one's health if continued for a long amount of time. It is ibuprofen's anti-inflammatory effects which make it effective as a fever reducer as well. As an anti-inflammatory medication ibuprofen releases prostaglandin which is what makes it effective in soothing headaches and fevers. It is the release of prostaglandin which also makes ibuprofen very effective in reducing menstrual cramps.
Forms of ibuprofen
Ibuprofen comes in a variety of forms. There is the standard tablet, chewable tablets, and liquid gel capsules. Each of these forms has its advantage. The tablet form is the most commonly consumed and easiest to carry around for emergencies. They can also be easily split in half providing more options for dosing amounts. Chewable forms of ibuprofen are great for children who have trouble swallowing pills. The liquid gel form is reported to take effect quicker than the tablet or chewable form of ibuprofen. This is advantageous in situations where pain relief is needed rapidly. The liquid gel form is more likely to cause stomach pain so it is recommended it be taken with some food.