Diclofenac: What is it? Uses, precautions and side effects

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Diclofenac is one of the most widely used anti-inflammatory drugs. It is available in any pharmacy. It is part of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

The use of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics was almost nil a little more than a century ago. These types of drugs became known relatively few decades ago. In fact, their first uses caused more problems than relief.

With regard to diclofenac, its use is considered safe. However, there are certain precautions and side effects to be aware of, so that the OTC drug does not cause health problems, but rather brings benefits.


Diclofenac is a cyclooxygenase inhibitor of proven effectiveness. It belongs to the group of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

It is widely used to relieve pain and inflammation, including joint pain, postoperative pain, pain due to kidney and gallstones, menstrual cramps, among others.

There are two presentations of this drug: diclofenac sodium and diclofenac potassium.


These two drugs contain the same effectiveness, since their base is diclofenac. However, the difference between one and the other is the way it is absorbed in the body. For this reason, some specialists prefer the use of one over the other.

Diclofenac potassium is absorbed faster than diclofenac sodium, since it is soluble in water. Therefore, if pain needs to be treated immediately, the potassium is best.

However, sodium, being of slower absorption, it is effective and prolonged in reducing inflammation. It is prescribed to treat arthritis. It should be noted that low doses are generally recommended.

Diclofenac potassium is better than diclofenac sodium when it comes to acute pain, thanks to its fast response time.

On the other hand, sodium diclofenac potassium is better for patients with chronic pain, ideal for reducing inflammation and can be used for a longer period of time.


Several commercial brands of diclofenac are available in pharmacies, among which the following stand out: Zipsor, Zorvolex, Cataflam, Voltaren XR, among others. Below, we will indicate the main conditions that warrant the use of this anti-inflammatory drug.

  • Mild to moderate pain, such as headache or migraine.
  • Inflammation and stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Arthrosis.
  • Gout in acute phase.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Lumbago
  • Menstrual pain.


This drug with antipyretic properties, besides coming in two types of classification, namely potassium or sodium, also comes in different formats or routes of administration. Below, we will indicate the main ways of use.

  • Oral route. In this presentation there are capsules, dispersible tablets, tablets, capsules and delayed action tablets. Also powder to be mixed with water.
  • Intramuscular. There are ampoules in which the effect tends to become fast, although it is recommended to continue with the treatment orally.
  • Rectal. There are suppositories.
  • Topical on the skin. This is a gel presentation. This format is available over-the-counter and is applied to relieve pain in the knees and other joint areas.


This drug is considered safe. However, certain precautions must be taken so that it does not cause harm.

  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women should not consume or use any of the diclofenac presentations. It can cause serious damage to the fetus. It should not be used during lactation.
  • Patients with cardiovascular pathology. Those who suffer from ischemic heart disease, peripheral arterial disease or cerebrovascular disease should not use this medicine.
  • Infertility in women. If you are planning to have a baby, you should not take this medicine, since some scientific studies assure that it decreases fertility in women.
  • Topical use. The use of this medication topically is delicate. Avoid exposing the treated area to sun exposure or tanning lamps. Diclofenac can make that area of the skin very sensitive.
  • Sun protection. Do not use sun lotions or creams after applying topical diclofenac.
  • Duration of treatment. This drug is of delicate use, especially for patients with cardiovascular risk. Therefore, it should be used for a short time and in low doses.
  • Allergy sufferers. Patients who are allergic to any of the components should not use it.

It should be considered that an overdose or improper use may cause cardiovascular problems. In this sense, patients suffering from hypertension can use it but not for a prolonged period of time and in minimal doses. Of course, those with severe cardiovascular pathology should consult their physician to weigh the risks and possible benefits.


As with any medication, there is a risk of side effects after taking or using it. However, these side effects can be mild to severe. In case of serious side effects, discontinue use and go to a nearby hospital.


  • A slight ringing in the ears.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Migraine or headache.
  • Gas or abdominal distension.
  • Dizziness.


  • Excessive tiredness, lack of energy.
  • Loss of appetite or weight gain for no apparent reason.
  • Shortness of breath, rapid heart rate.
  • Blisters, hives, rash.
  • Pale skin
  • Cloudy, discolored or bloody urine.

If you experience these effects you should see a doctor. If another adverse effect occurs that is not described here, it will be necessary to consult a specialist.

In short, although this medicine is available over-the-counter in many pharmacies, we can emphasize that in certain pathologies it requires a medical prescription. At the same time, it is necessary to be aware of the adverse effects in order to assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Carlos José Belmonte López
Carlos José Belmonte Lópezhttps://www.google.com/search?kgmid=/g/11rcl91syn
Degree in Pharmacy from the University CEU San Pablo and Master's Degree from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas de Madrid. Doctorate and committed to Human Health

Aunque pueda contener afirmaciones, datos o apuntes procedentes de instituciones o profesionales sanitarios y la información contenida en PharmaSalud esté redactada por profesionales en medicina, recomendamos al lector que cualquier duda relacionada con la salud sea consultada con un profesional del ámbito sanitario.

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