Meloxicam is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) used to treat moderate pain.
While being a potent painkiller, it can also cause some undesirable effects.
In this article, we will be discussing the potential side effects of this drug but please always discuss medications with your doctor before taking them.
What Is Meloxicam Used For?
Meloxicam belongs to the class of drugs called Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID). As the name implies, these drugs are not steroids and they have the ability to resolve inflammation. Inflammation is characterized by heat, pain, redness, swelling and in some cases, loss of function. Meloxicam is used to alleviate the pain and resolve the inflammation.
Meloxicam is also used in the long term treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition where the body’s immune system turns against and attacks the cartilage and other tissues of the joint, while ankylosing spondylitis is the ‘arthritis of the spine’. For a detailed description of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, consider reading what causes pain on the knee.
Side Effects of Meloxicam
1. Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Meloxicam blocks prostaglandin secretion.
Prostaglandins protect the walls of the stomach from the acid it secretes by helping with the production of a thick mucus lining. Hence, Meloxicam can cause an increased risk of serious gastrointestinal adverse events. This occurs by gradual wearing off of the stomach lining until it becomes sore.
These adverse effects include bleeding, ulceration, and perforation of the stomach or intestines, and over time, these can be fatal. It is usually more severe if it is used for a long period of time. Elderly patients and patients with a history of ulceration are at greater risk for serious gastrointestinal events.
What To Do
Meloxicam and other medications that belong to NSAID class are a no go area if you have ever been diagnosed with a peptic ulcer. Alternative pain relief medications compatible with the body system are available for use. Consult your physician for alternatives.
If Meloxicam is currently being used and you observe black, bloody, or tarry stools; coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, be quick to inform your physician so you can stop the medication.
2. Cardiovascular Side Effect
Prostaglandins cause the walls of blood vessels to widen in order to allow more blood to flow into the area of tissue damage.
Meloxicam use can cause the narrowing of the blood vessels, which can result in a number of effects on the heart and on the blood vessels.
These effects are more pronounced in patients with already existent cardiovascular diseases (diseases of the heart and blood vessels) such as high blood pressure, myocardial infarction, angina, but to mention a few. Meloxicam has been reported to cause a heart attack in some patients.
The cardiovascular side effects exhibited by drugs such as Meloxicam is based on their effect on COX-1 in the cellular environment.
Fluid retention and oedema (swelling of extremities) have also been observed in some patients treated with Meloxicam. This is because the use of meloxicam may blunt the effects of some other medications such as diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers, which are used to treat these medical conditions.
What To Do
Meloxicam is best avoided in patients with a history of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure. If used at all, the course of therapy should be as short as possible usually not exceeding five days, and the patient should be monitored. However, Meloxicam is best avoided!
3. Allergic Reactions
Meloxicam has been reported to cause severe allergic and anaphylactic reactions. Anaphylaxis (or anaphylactic reactions) are severe allergic reactions that can be life-threatening. They are most commonly reported in patients who had no previous exposure to this medication.
In an allergic reaction, the body simply sees the medication as a foreign body and releases chemicals to fight it. These chemicals released cause a myriad of symptoms in the body and may sometimes lead to shock. Imagine taking a medication for an ailment and coming down with severe reactions to the medication worse than what you were initially being treated.
A few of the warning signs given by the body include;
- Skin reactions
- Chest tightness as though a lump is dumped there
- Swollen throat or swollen parts of the body
- Abdominal pain
- Wheezing or Difficulty breathing
- Weak or rapid pulse
- A feeling that something is wrong with your body
- Pale face and body
- Nausea, vomiting and Diarrhea
- Tingling hands, feet, mouth or scalp
- Passing out
In most cases, an allergy to meloxicam may mean a likely allergy to other medications in the same class such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs.
What To Do
A case of anaphylaxis is an emergency. Treat it as such. As soon as possible, check into a medical facility where you can be treated. Subsequently, avoid the use of Meloxicam and other NSAIDs.
4. Respiratory Side effects
Meloxicam use can also result in difficulty in breathing. It can aggravate symptoms of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
This is because prostaglandins cause the walls of the bronchi (the air pipes that leads into the lungs) to dilate and blocking the production of prostaglandin can cause the constriction of the airways.
What to Do
If you have asthma or COPD, Meloxicam is better avoided. However, if you have to use Meloxicam, ensure your physician is informed.
Other Side Effects
Meloxicam is associated with a lot of other minor side effects which include, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, flatulence, influenza-like illness, and rash.
What To Do
If you observe any side effect that makes you uncomfortable, it is best to discuss with your physician to prevent unwanted aggravation of the symptoms.
As effective as Meloxicam is in the management of osteoarthritis and related conditions if you observe any of the side effects or are prone to them it is best avoided or substituted with other alternatives which are equally as effective.
It is essential to note that every drug has a side effect and that a drug works well for Mr A for the management of ailment A does not guarantee it’s effectiveness in Mr B for management of similar ailment.
Avoid self-medication and be well informed by your physician on medications you are using.
How is Meloxicam Used?
Meloxicam is prescribed usually at a daily dose of 7.5mg, and sometimes at a maximum daily dose of 15mg depending on the severity of the condition. Because of its tendency for aggravated side effects, it is usually advised to keep the prescribed dose at 7.5mg daily.
How Does Meloxicam Work?
To understand Meloxicam’s side effects, we need to look in-depth into how it works. As stated earlier, Meloxicam works to resolve inflammation. Inflammation in itself is not exactly a bad thing, it is the body’s natural response to the presence of infection-causing microorganisms or injury resulting in tissue damage.
You’re probably wondering, ‘if inflammation is such a good thing, why try to resolve it?’ That is because inflammation can sometimes get out of hand, and can be painful or very disturbing to the body.
There is an enzyme called Cyclo-oxygenase, which regulates the production of a substance called Prostaglandin. Prostaglandin increases the sensitivity of nerve endings of damaged tissues to pain, causing you to feel pain. Otherwise, you would not know of the tissue damage and would not attend to it.
Prostaglandin can also increase heat production or shut down the body’s cooling system, resulting in elevated body temperature. By increasing sensitivity to pain and causing fever, prostaglandins help the body to call your attention to the damaged tissue.
Meloxicam works by blocking the action of the cyclo-oxygenase enzyme, thereby blocking prostaglandin production. With reduced prostaglandin due to the action of Meloxicam, your body’s elevated temperature will normalize and you would also stop feeling the pain.
On the other hand, prostaglandins have other functions in the body, which unfortunately are also affected by Meloxicam, resulting in the side effects. These side effects can be mild, moderate and in some cases severe.
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