Naproxen is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs. It is available in prescription and nonprescription forms for the treatment of pain, inflammation and fever. In relatively rare cases, use of naproxen can trigger liver damage. Your doctor can look for this damage by checking for elevations in substances called liver enzymes. Consult your doctor before taking a naproxen product.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus lists potential uses for nonprescription forms of naproxen that include fever reduction and relief of mild pain associated with conditions such as the common cold, backaches, headaches, arthritis, painful menstruation and muscle aches. Uses for prescription forms of the medication include treatment of bursitis, tendinitis, gout, osteoarthritis, juvenile arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and an arthritic condition called ankylosing spondylitis. Naproxen-based medications include products such as Naprosyn, Aleve, Anaprox and Naprelan. Another medication, Vimovo, contains a combination of naproxen and another medication called esomeprazole.
Elevated Liver Enzymes
Enzymes are proteins in your body that act as chemical triggers for the cellular activities that keep you alive from day to day. Each cell in your body produces roughly 3,000 different enzymes, each of which has a specific biochemical task. Cellular damage inside your liver can trigger varying degrees of elevation in three main liver enzymes that circulate in your bloodstream: AST, or aspartate aminotransferase; ALP, or alkaline phosphate; and ALT, or alanine aminotransferase. Two additional liver enzymes —called GGT, or gamma-glutamyl transferase; and LDH, or lactate dehydrogenase — can also elevate in response to cellular damage.
When you take naproxen and certain other types of medications, your body relies on your liver to help break them down. If you take too much of a medication, or if your liver processes a medication abnormally slowly, you can develop liver damage. Use of naproxen can sometimes produce a form of damage called drug-induced hepatitis, MedlinePlus reports. In addition to elevated liver enzymes, potential signs or symptoms of naproxen-related liver problems include the yellowing of your eyes or skin associated with jaundice, itching, nausea, symptoms similar to those found in cases of the flu, and pain or tenderness in the area beneath the right side of your ribs.
To check your liver enzymes, your doctor must perform a blood test called a liver panel. While this test can reveal the presence of enzyme elevation, it cannot determine the specific cause of that elevation, and your doctor will need to perform additional diagnostic tests to pinpoint the source of your liver problems. If you develop liver-related symptoms while taking naproxen, discontinue use of the medication and contact your doctor as soon as possible. Consult your doctor for more information on naproxen’s liver-related effects, as well as information on naproxen’s potential effects on other parts of your body.
- MedlinePlus: Naproxen
- American Cancer Society: Naproxen
- MedlinePlus: Drug-Induced Hepatitis
- Drugs.com: Naproxen Side Effects
- American Association for Clinical Chemistry - Lab Tests Online: Liver Panel - The Test
- Elmhurst College - Virtual Chembook; Role of Enzymes in Biochemical Reactions; Richard E. Ophardt; 2003