One of the functions of the liver is to clear drugs from the body, but excessive doses of these medications can damage the liver. High doses prevent the liver from eliminating the drugs from the body, or in some people, liver metabolism is slowed. The liver becomes inflamed and no longer functions properly, eventually becoming damaged. In extreme cases, liver failure results. Although excessive doses of ibuprofen may affect the liver, ibuprofen has a lower risk of liver damage than acetaminophen, which damages the liver at doses only slightly higher than the recommended dose.
Effect of Ibuprofen on the Liver
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Ibuprofen relieves pain and reduces fever and inflammation (Merck Manual). The liver eliminates ibuprofen from the body. The process may work too slowly in some people, or liver function may be altered by high doses of certain drugs, such as ibuprofen (National Institutes of Health [NIH]). If the liver is unable to eliminate the drugs properly, the liver may become damaged or inflamed. Liver inflammation resulting from medication is called drug-induced hepatitis.
Symptoms of Liver Damage
Hepatitis caused by ibuprofen is marked by abdominal pain and tenderness on the upper right side, dark-colored urine, diarrhea, headache, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, jaundice and white or clay-colored stool (NIH). The diagnosed is confirmed with a blood test, which will show elevated liver enzymes.
Treatment for Liver Damage
The treatment for ibuprofen-induced liver damage is simply discontinuing use of the drug (NIH). No other treatment is necessary. Symptoms usually fade within a few days after ibuprofen is stopped but may linger for a few weeks.
Ibuprofen may be used safely without risking damage to the liver. Never exceed the maximum recommended dose of 800 mg per dose up to four times per day (maximum total daily dose of 3200 mg). People who are heavy drinkers of alcohol should avoid using ibuprofen or discuss a safe dose with their physician. The effects of ibuprofen on the liver are worse in people who already have liver damage or hepatitis (NIH).
Other Side Effects
Other side effects associated with ibuprofen include upset stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or gas, dizziness, headache, nervousness, rash, blurred vision or ringing in the ears (Drugs.com). High blood pressure is a direct result of ibuprofen-induced hepatitis or liver damage. A damaged or inflamed liver cannot function properly. One functions of the liver is regulation of fats in the blood. If these fats are unregulated, they build up and the blood becomes “sticky,” reducing the blood flow through the arteries and raising blood pressure (HighBloodInfoPressure.org).