Acetaminophen can seem like a safer choice than aspirin, and in some ways, it is. Acetaminophen is more easily tolerated by the stomach than aspirin since it does not irritate the lining of the stomach. Its drawback when compared with aspirin is that it will not reduce inflammation.
Acetaminophen works as a pain-reliever (analgesic) and lowers fever by affecting the brain's centers, and its temperature regulation.
Occasional use of acetaminophen is believed to be safe even for those with kidney disease. This is also true for people with serious health considerations like diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension) that may leave them more vulnerable to the possible development of kidney disease.
However long-term use of acetaminophen is another matter entirely. This can cause kidney damage, and can double the odds of kidney cancer.
People with liver problems should also stay away from acetaminophen because it can not only cause damage to the liver, but it leaves them more vulnerable to kidney damage as well.
People who drink alcohol excessively or even moderately, can end up with both kidney and liver damage as a result of even occasional acetaminophen use.
Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of over the counter (OTC) drug poisoning in the U.S. Signs of toxicity are abdominal tenderness, nausea and vomiting, within 24 hours of the overdose. Liver damage, which can lead to kidney damage, can occur within a matter of days.
Those who need long-term pain relief may be able to reduce the risks associated with acetaminophen use by increasing fluid intake. Antioxidant supplementation of such nutrients as alpha-lipoic acid, selenium, Vitamins C and E, among others, can help in this regard.
The individual with kidney disease should try to limit the dosage and the length of time that they are taking acetaminophen as much as possible. Pain-relievers that mix aspirin and acetaminophen, or other combinations of analgesics, should be avoided.
If you have kidney disease, or are at high risk for kidney disease, but have ongoing chronic pain, it is of paramount importance that you seek the advice of a doctor.