Diclofenac




Diclofenac is a prescription NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). Like most NSAIDs, it’s frequently used to treat conditions resulting in pain and inflammation, and it has a fever-reducing effect as well.

Click here for more information about NSAIDs.

Availability

Dicolofenac is available in most countries as a prescription painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug. It’s typically combined into a sodium or potassium salt. Some countries favor either the sodium or potassium version, but in most countries both are available.

The drug is also available as tablets, oral solution, an IV formulation, a topical gel, and an eye drop. Each is meant for treating a specific range of conditions.

There is generic diclofenac available.

Dosage

Depending on the condition, oral diclofenac is typically prescribed to be take 2 or 3 times a day, 50 mg per dose. Generally, daily dosage shouldn’t be over 150 mg or there is a greater risk of negative side effects.

An intravenous (IV) injection may be necessary for certain muscular conditions such as bursitis. These doses often run as high as 75 mg in a shot, but it’s a once a day occurrence.

The gel (marketed under the brand name Voltaren) can be used more often. It’s recommended to use about 4 g of gel per use 4 times a day on the affected joint. A patient can use more if necessary, but no more than 32 g of gel a day.

Eye drops containing diclofenac are frequently prescribed after eye surgery. The recommended dose for these drops is 1 drop in the affected eye 4 times a day.

Regardless of how diclofenac is administered, it’s a good idea to take it with food to prevent some of the digestive side effects. This is especially true of taking the drug orally, but as the drug’s affects target the digestive system in general, it’s a good idea to eat with it any time it’s taken.

In some countries, diclofenac may be combined with other drugs like codeine for an improved effect, but these combinations aren’t widely available.

Common Uses

Most of the NSAIDs have the same uses. Different NSAIDs might be used if someone has a sensitivity to one particular drug from the group, or if someone has developed a tolerance to a particular drug from frequent use.

Injury

Diclofenac is sometimes prescribed after a serious injury in which there is significant inflammation. The drug may be prescribed orally as either a pill or a powder to be mixed with water.  It might also be prescribed as a topical gel to applied directly to the injury itself.

Post Surgical Pain

Immediately after surgery, diclofenac may be administered in either a shot or an IV drip. The shot is a relatively recent development compared to a slower IV drip. Doctors may also prescribe oral diclofenac to deal the with pain during the healing process.

In eye surgery (such as cataract removal), diclofenac is often prescribed as an eye drop to applied directly to the eye where it helps relieve the pain and the swelling.

Migraines

In the case of severe migraines, a doctor may use diclofenac to give the patient some relief. Though there are other NSAIDs on the market over-the-counter, sometimes a person will develop a tolerance.  In these cases, another drug like diclofenac may be a better choice. Normally taken orally, sometimes diclofenac will be given as a shot to relieve especially severe migraines.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an inflammatory disease that typically attacks the joints.  It can result in painful swelling at all the flexible joints, often especially obvious in the fingers and toes. NSAIDs in general, including diclofenac, are often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Though this condition also affects the joints, it’s different from rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the natural padding and lubrication within the joints starts to wear down. The resulting pain and swelling is often treated with NSAIDs like diclofenac.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

This is also a joint condition, but one specifically affecting the spine. In severe cases, the vertebrae that make up the spine can fuse. In less severe cases, there is still pain and swelling, especially in the lower back where the spine meets the pelvis. Diclofenac, and all other NSAIDs, are often used to treat these symptoms.

Bursitis

Bursitis is when small sacs of fluid that help the joints move smoothly (bursae) become inflamed and don’t function anymore. This makes any movement of the affected joints painful. Diclofenac helps reduce the pain and helps to reduce the swelling that cause the pain in the first place.

Menstrual Cramps

Diclofenac is often used in cases of severe menstrual cramping and discomfort. It not only addresses the pain, but also helps to reduce the swelling which is causing the discomfort.

There’s also a page devoted just to the various uses of NSAIDs.

Side Effects

Diclofenac has many of the same side effects as other NSAIDs. Most are relatively minor, but there are some symptoms to watch out for.

  • any sign of blood in vomit or stool
  • black or tar-like bowel movements
  • vomit that looks like coffee grounds

These are all potential signs of bleeding in the digestive system, a very dangerous potential side effect of NSAIDs. It’s a rare occurrence, but the risk does increase the longer someone takes NSAIDs or the higher the dosage.

Like any medication, it’s also important to be aware of potential allergies. Allergic reactions can be very problematic, and may show up as fairly mild symptoms to start.

  • persistent redness or itchiness
  • any kind of rash or hives
  • swelling of the extremities (fingers and toes)
  • swelling of the face, lips, or tongue

If any of these digestive or allergic symptoms show up, it’s important to see a doctor immediately.

In addition to these serious problems, diclofenac has a few other side effects. Most NSAIDs have similar side effects.

Heart Disease

The chronic use of NSAIDs like diclofenac increases the risk of heart diseases like high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. These side effects are dose-dependent, though, and tend to only occur with regularly taken high doses of the drugs.

Digestive Problems

Above are some of the most serious side effects diclofenac can have on the digestive system. Other more mild effects could include nausea, diarrhea, and excessive gas. These aren’t necessarily indications of more serious conditions, but if its very uncomfortable or any of the above things happen, it’s important to see a doctor right away.

Liver Damage

NSAIDs can occasionally cause some liver damage, especially extended use of high dosages. These cases are exceptionally rare, but it can happen. Hepatitis, jaundice, and even liver failure can be caused by excessive use of diclofenac.

There are other potential side effects.  Click on the link for more of the NSAIDs side effects.

Brand Names

Diclofenac is only available with a prescription, but there are generic brands available.

Other brands under which diclofenac is sold include Voltaren (Novartis), Cataflam (Novartis), Cambia (Kowa) and Zipsor (Xanodyne).