Can an aspirin a day keep the doctor away? Because of its anti-clotting properties, daily aspirin therapy is believed to help prevent strokes and heart attacks while reducing the risk for heart disease for certain people [source: Mayo Clinic]. As with any medicinal treatment, however, it can have side effects. One is how daily aspirin use affects your skin.
Aspirin is often prescribed in small daily doses to lower the risk of heart attack or stroke because of its effect on the clotting action of platelets in the bloodstream. When we bleed, platelets collect at the wound site, forming a plug. But this clotting can also occur inside blood vessels. When a clot blocks the artery and stops blood flow to the brain or heart, a stroke or heart attack can result. Aspirin reduces the ability of the platelets to clump, thereby lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke [source: Paddock].
One of the most common skin-related side effects of extended aspirin use is bruising. Bruises are caused when capillaries are damaged and allow blood to leak visibly underneath the skin. Since aspirin is a blood thinner – the very property that make it effective in preventing strokes and heart attacks – it can also keep blood vessels from healing as quickly as they normally would [source: Mayo Clinic].
Sometimes, though, taking aspirin in combination with other chemicals can be connected to more severe skin reactions, such as cold, clammy, red, swollen or blistered skin [source: Drugs]. If this happens, or if the bruises or discolorations become severe, see your doctor immediately. These can signal more dangerous reactions that require immediate attention.
Aspirin, as an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), can also trigger allergic reactions. People with asthma should be particularly aware of this possibility [source: Griffin].
Another potentially positive effect, some researchers say, might be aspirin's ability to fight skin cancer. Animal studies indicate aspirin might stunt development of some types of skin cancer. Also, an Australian study published in 2005 found that people who took aspirin daily on a long-term basis were less likely to have certain types of skin cancers than those who did not [source: Butler].
However, in the same issue of The Lancet that reported Rothwell's findings, Andrew Chan and Nancy Cook of Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, said that despite the promising research, they weren't ready to recommend aspirin for cancer prevention. UK health officials agreed. Still, Chan and Cook allowed that the research was "a step closer to broadening recommendations for aspirin use" [source: Paddock].
In general, daily aspirin therapy probably won't have a noticeable affect on your skin. If you do experience side effects, they may disappear with a lower dose. Again, consult your doctor before starting or changing your daily aspirin therapy, and make sure you detail all medications you're taking to avoid complications [source: Griffin].
If the side effects bother you, there might be other alternatives (including, but not limited to, giving up smoking, following a healthy diet, reducing alcohol intake, maintaining a normal weight and regular exercise) [source: Paddock]. However, if the potential benefits of taking aspirin regularly outweigh the risks, it might be worth some skin discoloration or bruising in order to have the heart-healthy benefits.
To learn more, check out the links below.
- Delighted Momma. "Skin Care Tip of the Week *DIY salicylic (aspirin) mask*" DelightedMomma.com. April 9, 2012 (Accessed, Dec. 11, 2012) http://www.delightedmomma.com/2012/04/skin-care-tip-of-week-diy-salicylic.html
- Drugs. "Aspirin Side Effects." (Accessed 7/27/09) http://www.drugs.com/sfx/aspirin-side-effects.html
- Butler, Gregory J., Rachel Neale, Adele C. Green, Nirmala Pandeya and David C. Whiteman. "Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of actinic keratoses and squamous cell cancers of the skin." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. May, 11, 2005. (Accessed 08/14/2009) http://www.eblue.org/article/PIIS0190962205023819/abstract
- Griffin, R. Morgan. "Safe Pain Relief With Aspirin Therapy." WedMD. (Accessed, Dec. 12, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/safe-pain-relief-aspirin-therapy
- Mayo Clinic. "Daily aspirin therapy: Understand the benefits and risks." (Accessed 7/27/09) http://mayoclinic.com/health/daily-aspirin-therapy/HB00073
- Mayo Clinic. "Easy Bruising: Common As You Age." (Accessed 8/14/2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/easy-bruising/HQ00355
- Paddock, Catharine PhD. "Daily Aspirin – More Benefit Than Risk?." Medical News Today. March 25, 2012 (Accessed, Dec. 12, 2012) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/243265.php