Medicines in this group, often referred to as NSAIDs, are used to relieve the pain, stiffness, and inflammation of painful conditions affecting the muscles, bones, and joints. NSAIDs are called "non-steroidal" to distinguish them from corticosteroid, which also damp down inflammation.
The pancreas releases certain enzymes into the small intestine that are necessary for digestion of a range of foods. If the release of pancreatic enzymes is impaired (by chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis, for example), enzyme replacement therapy may be necessary. Replacement of enzymes does not cure the underlying disorder, but it restores normal digestion.
The formation of gallstones is the most common disorder of the gallbladder, which is the storage and concentrating unit for bile, a digestive juice produced by the liver. During digestion, bile passes from the gallbladder via the bile duct into the small intestine, where it assists in the digestion of fats.
The most common disorder of the rectum (the last part of the large intestine) and anus (the opening from the rectum) is haemorrhoids, commonly known as piles. They occur when haemorrhoidal veins become swollen or irritated, often due to prolonged local pressure such as that caused by a pregnancy or a job requiring long hours of sitting.
Inflammatory bowel disease is the term used for disorders in which inflammation of the intestinal wall causes recurrent attacks of abdominal pain, general feelings of ill-health, and frequently diarrhoea, with blood and mucus present in the faeces. Loss of appetite and poor absorption of food may often result in weight loss.
When your bowels do not move as frequently as usual and the faeces are hard and difficult to pass, you are suffering from constipation. The most common cause is lack of sufficient fibre in your diet; fibre supplies the bulk that makes the faeces soft and easy to pass. The simplest remedy is more fluid and a diet that contains plenty of foods that are high in fibre, but laxative medicines may also be used.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common, often stress-related, condition in which the waves of muscular contraction that normally move the bowel contents smoothly through the intestines become strong and irregular. This disruption often causes pain, and may be associated with diarrhoea or constipation.
Diarrhoea is an increase in the fluidity and frequency of bowel movements. In some cases diarrhoea protects the body from harmful substances in the intestine by hastening their removal. The most common causes of diarrhoea are viral infection, food poisoning, and parasites.
Normally, the linings of the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum are protected from the irritant action of stomach acids or bile by a thin covering layer of mucus. If this is damaged, or if large amounts of stomach acid are formed, the underlying tissue may become eroded, causing a peptic ulcer (break in the gut lining).
Digestive juices in the stomach contain acid and enzymes that break down food before it passes into the intestine. The wall of the stomach is normally protected from the action of digestive acid by a layer of mucus that is constantly secreted by the stomach lining. Problems arise when the stomach lining is damaged or too much acid is produced and eats away at the mucous layer.
The gastrointestinal tract, also known as the digestive or alimentary tract, is the pathway through which food passes as it is processed to enable the nutrients it contains to be absorbed for use by the body. It consists of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, duodenum, small intestine, large intestine (including the colon and rectum), and anus.
When bleeding occurs as a result of injury or surgery, the body normally acts swiftly to stem the flow by sealing the breaks in the blood vessels. This occurs in two stages - first when cells called platelets accumulate as a plug at the opening in the blood vessel wall, and then when these platelets produce chemicals that activate clotting factors in the blood to form a protein called fibrin.
The blood contains several types of fats, or lipids. They are necessary for normal body function but can be damaging in excess, particularly saturated fats such as cholesterol. The main risk is atherosclerosis, in which fatty deposits (atheroma) build up in the arteries, restricting and disrupting blood flow. This can increase the likelihood of abnormal blood clots forming, leading to potentially fatal disorders such as stroke and heart attack.
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the artery walls. Two measurements are taken: one indicates force while the heart’s ventricles are contracting (systolic pressure). This reading is a higher figure than the other one, which measures the blood pressure during ventricle relaxation (diastolic pressure).
Angina is chest pain produced when insufficient oxygen reaches the heart muscle. This is usually caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels (coronary arteries) that carry blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. In the most common type of angina (classic angina), pain usually occurs during physical exertion or emotional stress.
The heart contains two upper and two lower chambers, which are known as the atria and ventricles. The pumping actions of these two sets of chambers are normally coordinated by electrical impulses that originate in the heart's pacemaker and then travel along conducting pathways so that the heart beats with a regular rhythm.
Digitalis is the collective term for the naturally occurring substances (also called cardiac glycosides) that are found in the leaves of plants of the foxglove family and used to treat certain heart disorders. The principal medicines in this group are digoxin and digitoxin.
The blood transports oxygen, nutrients, and heat, contains chemical messages in the form of medicines and hormones, and carries away waste products for excretion by the kidneys. Blood is pumped by the heart to and from the lungs, and then in a separate circuit to the rest of the body, including the brain, digestive organs, muscles, kidneys, and skin.
Coughing is a natural response to irritation of the lungs and air passages, designed to expel harmful substances from the respiratory tract. Common causes of coughing include infection of the respiratory tract (for example, bronchitis or pneumonia), inflammation of the airways caused by asthma, or exposure to certain irritant substances such as smoke or chemical fumes.
The usual cause of a blocked nose is swelling of the delicate mucous membrane that lines the nasal passages and excessive production of mucus as a result of inflammation. This may be caused by an infection (for example, a common cold) or it may be caused by an allergy (for example, to pollen - a condition known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever).
Air entering the lungs passes through narrow tubes called bronchioles. In asthma and bronchitis the bronchioles become narrower, either as a result of contraction of the muscles in their walls, or as a result of mucus congestion. This narrowing of the bronchioles obstructs the flow of air into and out of the lungs and causes breathlessness.
The respiratory system consists of the lungs and the air passages, such as the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi, by which air reaches them. Through the process of inhaling and exhaling air (breathing) the body obtains the oxygennecessary for survival, and to expel carbon dioxide, which is the waste product of the basic human biological process.
Medicines used to treat or prevent vomiting or the feeling of sickness (nausea) are known as anti-emetics. Vomiting is a reflex action for getting rid of harmful substances, but it may also be a symptom of disease. Vomiting and nausea are often caused by a digestive tract infection, travel sickness, pregnancy, or vertigo (a balance disorder involving the inner ear).
Migraine is a term applied to recurrent severe headaches affecting only one side of the head and caused by changes in the blood vessels around the brain and scalp. They may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting and preceded by warning signs, usually an impression of flashing lights or numbness and tingling in the arms.
Dementia is a decline in mental function severe enough to affect normal social or occupational activities. It can be sudden and irreversible, due to a stroke or head injury for example. It can also develop gradually and may be a feature of disorders such as poor circulation in the brain, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Parkinsonism is a general term used to describe shaking of the head and limbs, muscular stiffness, an expressionless face, and inability to control or initiate movement. It is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain; the effect of acetylcholine is increased by a reduction in the action of dopamine.
Electrical signals from nerve cells in the brain are normally finely coordinated to produce smooth movements of the arms and legs, but these signals can become irregular and chaotic, and trigger the disorderly muscular activity and mental changes that are characteristic of a seizure (also called a fit or convulsion). The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy, which occurs as a result of brain disease or injury.
Changes in mood are normal, but when a person's mood swings become grossly exaggerated, with peaks of elation or mania alternating with troughs of depression, it becomes an illness known as bipolar disorder or manic depression. It is usually treated with salts of lithium, a medicine that reduces the intensity of the mania, lifts the depression, and lessens the frequency of mood swings.
Psychosis is a term used to describe mental disorders that prevent the sufferer from thinking clearly, recognizing reality, and acting rationally. These disorders include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression). The precise causes of these disorders are unknown, although a number of factors, including stress, heredity, and brain injury, may be involved.
Occasional moods of discouragement or sadness are normal and usually pass quickly. However, more severe depression that is accompanied by despair, lethargy, loss of sex drive, and often poor appetite may call for medical attention. Such depression can arise from life stresses such as the death of someone close, an illness, or sometimes from no apparent cause.
Difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep (insomnia) has many causes. Most people have sleepless nights from time to time, usually due to a temporary worry or discomfort from a minor illness. Persistent sleeplessness can be caused by psychological problems including anxiety or depression, or the pain and discomfort of a physical disorder.
Analgesics (painkillers) are medicines that relieve pain. Since pain is not a disease but a symptom, long-term relief depends on treatment of the underlying cause. For example, the pain of toothache can be relieved by medicines but can be cured only by appropriate dental treatment.
Loperamide is used in the treatment of diarrhea. Loperamide is an anti-diarrhoeal medication. It works by slowing down the contraction of the intestines thereby decreasing the speed at which the contents pass through it. This allows more time for reabsorption of fluids and nutrients, making the stools more solid and less frequent.
Metoclopramide is used in the treatment of nausea, vomiting and indigestion. Metoclopramide is a prokinetic. It works on the region in the brain that controls vomiting. It also acts on the upper digestive tract to increase the movement of the stomach and intestines, allowing food to move more easily through the stomach.
Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen and APAP (acetyl-para-aminophenol), is a medication used to treat pain and fever. Paracetamol is generally safe at recommended doses. The recommended maximum daily dose for an adult is 3 (3000 mg) grams. It does not have significant anti-inflammatory activity. Taking more paracetamol could cause damage to your liver.