Diabetes & Aspirin

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Aspirin is a well know painkiller buts its chemical name of “acytylsalicylic acid” is less well known. However aspirin is not just a pain killer as it has a number of other effects on your body:

  • Pain killer
  • Reduces a fever (body temperature)
  • Reduces inflammation (swelling)
  • Reduces the number of platelets in your blood (which reduces the viscosity ( or “glueyness”) of your blood)

However, aspirin also has a number of less desirable effects on your body including stomach ulcers, bleeding in your stomach and tinnitus (ringing in your ears). The effect of aspirin on the thickness of your blood means that it is often used to treat heart attack victims (as it makes it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body). Diabetics have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (disease of the circulatory system which includes your heart and blood vessels). If you are a diabetic with a history of cardiovascular disease then your GP may suggest that you take aspirin regularly in order to prevent complications arising due to platelet aggregation in your blood vessels (i.e. where your blood is too thick and prevents passage of nutrients and oxygen through your blood vessels). However, due to the less desirable effects produced by aspirin, your aspirin intake should be minimised and you should expect your GP to suggest low-dose aspirin therapy. These undesirable side effects mean that if you have diabetes with no history of cardiovascular disease then current recommendations suggest that you do not take aspirin to try to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you are in any doubts about your risk of cardiovascular disease and your subsequent need of a low-dose aspirin therapy or about your risk of stomach ulcers/bleeding due to your over-use of aspirin, then you should talk to your GP.

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