Over-the-counter NSAIDs like Ibuprofen are the go-to if you need to relieve a headache or muscle soreness. But users should take care not to make a habit of popping the painkillers at high doses for lengthy periods of time. Prior studies have linked excessive use of Ibuprofen to an increased risk of heart attack. And now, new research shows that it can cause infertility, erectile dysfunction, muscle atrophy and fatigue in men.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), followed 31 healthy men ages 18 to 35 years old over a six week period. In the group, the men who took 600 mg of Ibuprofen (the equivalent of three tablets) twice a day developed a condition called compensated hypogonadism.
Typically seen in older men and smokers, the condition describes when the testes produce an insufficient amount of testosterone. To compensate, the pituitary gland stimulates production of more testosterone — but eventually, the mechanism wears out and levels of the hormone drop throughout the body. This can also lead to infertility issues, symptoms of erectile dysfunction, as well as muscle weakness and fatigue.
In the subjects, the condition was temporary, but study leads told the Guardian it could become a permanent problem in cases of long term overuse.
To avoid these side-effects, doctors caution against taking Ibuprofen for more longer than ten days in a row, per the FDA’s warning. Otherwise, occasional use at the recommended dosage to treat aches and pains is safe and recommended. If you’re pregnant, taking blood thinners, or suffering from a serious medical condition, check with your doctor first before using.