Indometacin for pain and inflammation

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Indometacin is a medicine called a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It is also known as 'an NSAID'.

Before you take indometacin, let your doctor know if you have ever had a bad reaction to any other anti-inflammatory painkiller.

Some people can feel dizzy while taking indometacin - this may affect your ability to drive or use tools or machines.

Type of medicine Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
Used for Relief of pain and inflammation
Available as Capsules, modified-release capsules, and suppositories

Anti-inflammatory painkillers like indometacin are sometimes called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or just 'anti-inflammatories'. Indometacin is used to treat painful conditions such as arthritis, sprains and strains, back pain, period (menstrual) pain, and gout pain.

Indometacin works by blocking the effect of chemicals in your body, called cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes. These enzymes help to make other chemicals in the body, called prostaglandins. Some prostaglandins are produced at sites of injury or damage, and cause pain and inflammation. By blocking the effect of COX enzymes, fewer prostaglandins are produced, which means pain and inflammation are eased.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking indometacin, it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you have asthma or any other allergic disorder.
  • If you have ever had a stomach or duodenal ulcer, or if you have an inflammatory bowel disorder such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you are over 65 years of age.
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have a heart condition, or a problem with your blood vessels or circulation.
  • If you have high blood pressure.
  • If you have epilepsy, or Parkinson's disease, or a mental health problem.
  • If you have any blood clotting problems.
  • If you have a connective tissue disorder, such as systemic lupus erythematosus. This condition is also called lupus, or SLE.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any other NSAID (such as aspirin, naproxen, diclofenac, and ibuprofen), or to any other medicine.
  • Before you start taking indometacin, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. There are several strengths of indometacin capsule available. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about the strength of capsule you have been given, and it will also provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience.
  • Follow the instructions given by your doctor for taking indometacin. Your dose will depend upon the reason why you are taking it - you may be asked to take just one dose a day, or several doses each day. Your dose will be printed on the label of the pack, but if you are still unsure what to do, ask your pharmacist for advice.
  • Take indometacin capsules with a meal or after a snack. Doing this can help to prevent side-effects such as indigestion. Many people find it helps to swallow the capsules with a drink.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember (unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose). Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • Your doctor will try to prescribe you the lowest dose for the shortest time in order to reduce the risk of side-effects. If you need to take indometacin for a long time, your doctor may want to prescribe another medicine along with it to protect your stomach from irritation.
  • Try to keep any regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress, and is especially important if you are taking indometacin for a long-term condition.
  • If you have asthma, symptoms such as wheeze or breathlessness can be made worse by anti-inflammatories. If this happens to you, you should stop taking indometacin and see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with an anti-inflammatory. This is because you should not take indometacin with any other anti-inflammatory painkiller, some of which are available in cold and flu remedies which can be bought over the counter.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with indometacin. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Commin indometacin side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Indigestion, heartburn, stomach pain Make sure you take your doses after a meal. If the discomfort continues, speak with your doctor
Feeling or being sick Stick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy foods
Diarrhoea or constipation Drink plenty of water
Feeling dizzy Do not drive or use tools or machines when dizzy

Important: if you experience any of the following less common but more serious symptoms, stop taking indometacin and contact your doctor for advice straightaway:

  • If you have any breathing difficulties such as wheeze or breathlessness.
  • If you have any signs of an allergic reaction such as swelling around your mouth or face, or a severe itchy skin rash.
  • If you pass blood or black stools, vomit blood, or have severe abdominal pains.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Indometacin Capsules 25 mg, 50 mg; Actavis UK Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated July 2013.
  • British National Formulary; 67th Edition (March 2014) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3201 (v23)
Last Checked:
17/04/2014
Next Review:
16/04/2017
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