The American Geriatrics Society has issued new guidelines for managing chronic pain in seniors.
Most pain issues are managed using common over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID.
When a patient has a condition which involves chronic pain, however, those medications may not provide sufficient relief.
Those medications can also have dangerous side effects; those side effects can include gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, and in some cases, they may increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
NSAIDs may cause an elevation in blood pressure, may affect kidney function, and can interact with other common medications including some prescribed for heart failure. Risks increase at higher doses and when usage is over a longer period of time, as is often the case with treatment for chronic conditions.
Patients who are 75 and older should receive opioids in such cases. Chronic pain too often goes untreated in the elderly, and chronic pain exacts a heavy price in terms of quality of life.
One consideration when it comes to the use of opiates for pain management is the risk of addiction. While each case must be evaluated individually, seniors as a group are less likely to abuse opiate medications and become addicted.
Other side effects of opiate medications for pain relief include nausea, constipation, fatigue, and respiratory problems. Any patient taking opioid medications should be closely monitored for these side effects.