Like all medicines, the prescription NSAID pain reliever diclofenac sodium (and its other formulations as well) has a risk of side effects. Some side effects are minor and don’t require medical attention, while others can be very serious.
Many of diclofenac’s side effects are similar to those of other NSAID medications (such as ibuprofen or aspirin). In this article, you will find some of the most common side effects of this drug, organized by minor and serious side effects. We have also included some symptoms of diclofenac overdose. At the end of the article, you will find some tips that may help you avoid or minimize uncomfortable side effects.
Minor side effects of diclofenac
These side effects are not considered serious and generally don’t require medical attention. However, if they are very severe, interfering with your quality of life, or if something just doesn’t feel right, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor. Sometimes, these side effects are temporary and will become less severe or go away entirely as your body gets used to taking diclofenac.
Minor side effects of oral diclofenac (tablets, dissolvable powder, etc.) may include:
- An unexplained ringing or buzzing sound in your ears
- Hearing loss
- Bloated feeling due to gas in the stomach or intestines
- Flatulence (passing gas)
- Muscle weakness or loss of strength
Serious side effects of diclofenac
The following are considered potentially medically serious side effects of diclofenac. Experiencing some of these side effects is not necessarily cause for alarm, but it should definitely be brought to your doctor’s attention.
Major gastrointestinal side effects of oral diclofenac
Because it is an NSAID medication, diclofenac has the risk of causing potentially severe gastrointestinal side effects. These can occur as a result of the medicine weakening the protective lining of the stomach. Contact a healthcare professional right away if you experience:
- Abdominal pain, cramping, burning or bloating
- Excessive belching
- Chest pain or feeling of indigestion/heartburn
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blood in stool or black, tarry stools (may indicate stomach bleeding)
- Vomiting blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds (may indicate stomach bleeding)
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
Major circulatory side effects of diclofenac
NSAID drugs like diclofenac may act as a blood thinner or anticoagulant. If you experience any of these bleeding and clotting related side effects, contact a healthcare professional right away:
- Increased bleeding time (i.e. blood takes longer than usual to clot)
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
- Pale skin
Other major side effects of diclofenac
Some other serious side effects of this medication may indicate a problem with kidney function or an allergic reaction to diclofenac. If you experience any of these side effects while taking diclofenac, contact a healthcare professional:
- Cloudy urine
- Decreased urine volume
- Inability to concentrate urine (large volumes of clear, dilute urine)
- Itching skin or rash
- Unusual tiredness or weakness
- Labored breathing
Symptoms of diclofenac overdose
Never take more diclofenac than your doctor has instructed. If you miss a dose, do not try to compensate by taking a double dose the next time. Be on the lookout for signs of potential diclofenac overdose. If you experience any of these symptoms of overdose, get emergency medical attention right away:
- Agitation, irritability or hostility
- Depression or nervousness
- Unusual sleepiness, drowsiness, or sluggishness
- Confusion or stupor
- Change in consciousness or loss of consciousness (passing out)
- Blurred vision or change in your ability to see colors
- Trouble breathing, irregular or shallow breathing
- Very slow or very fast heartbeat
- Pain, tightness or discomfort in the chest, throat or upper stomach
- Pale or blue lips, fingernails or skin
- Puffiness or swelling of the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, ankles or hands
- Muscle twitching
- Rapid weight gain
Tips to reduce diclofenac side effects
It may be possible to reduce your risk of experiencing some of the side effects of diclofenac, or to reduce their severity once you have experienced them. Here are some tips to avoid some of the side effects of diclofenac:
- Before taking diclofenac, inform your doctor of all medical conditions you have, including medication allergies, as well as all other medicines and supplements you are taking, even over-the-counter or natural remedies.
- Always follow your doctor’s instructions for taking diclofenac. Do not take more than you are prescribed and wait the full time interval before taking your next dose.
- When taking oral diclofenac, drink a full glass of water.
- Avoid lying down for 30 minutes after taking a dose of diclofenac.
- If your doctor or pharmacist has instructed you to take diclofenac with food, always follow these directions.
- If your doctor did not instruct you to take this medicine with food, doing so may help reduce gastrointestinal upset.
- If your doctor told you to take diclofenac on an empty stomach and you are experiencing stomach pain, talk to them about the possibility of taking this medication with a small snack.
- Use caution with vitamins and supplements that may make it harder for you to stop bleeding if injured (e.g. vitamin E). Always let your doctor know of all medications, vitamins and supplements you are taking before starting diclofenac.
- If you have been prescribed diclofenac on an “as-needed” basis, such as for migraine attacks, do not take the medicine when you don’t need it, as this can increase side effects in general and cause NSAID rebound headaches.
- Do not take other NSAID medicines while taking diclofenac, even over-the-counter (e.g. ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin], naproxen [Aleve], aspirin, etc.).
Sometimes, you can experience side effects even if you do everything right. Not everyone will respond well to diclofenac. You should always contact your doctor if you have questions about your dosage, instructions, or any side effects you think you might be experiencing. In case of severe reactions such as those described in the “symptoms of overdose” section, get emergency medical help immediately.
Remember, the information on this website is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.