Side effects of NSAIDs can include rashes, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart or kidney problems, fluid retention, bleeding, or holes in the stomach or intestine, all of which can develop suddenly and without warning signs, and some of which can be serious or even fatal. The risk is higher for those who take NSAIDs for a long period of time and those who take higher doses of NSAIDs, as well as for the elderly, those in poor health or people who drink more than three alcoholic beverages a day while taking NSAIDs. In addition, people who take NSAIDs other than aspirin may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke than those who do not take these medications.
There are no significant differences in terms of the safety of NSAIDs on the market. The side effects of each drug may vary. Some research suggests that naproxen (e.g., Aleve) is safer for the heart, and celecoxib (Celebrex) is less likely to cause stomach problems, though it may increase the risk of heart problems, especially in higher doses.
Individuals who are taking anticoagulants, other NSAIDs or oral steroids, and those who have had ulcers, stomach or intestinal bleeding, or other bleeding disorders, or are pregnant should talk to their doctors before using NSAIDs. People experiencing stomach pain, heartburn, bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, bloody stool, or black or tarry stools should stop taking NSAIDs and see their doctor immediately.