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Pain Relief Delivered Across The Skin

Sep 8, 2008
Delivering any medicine into the body has its challenges and drawbacks. Medicines taken orally have taste problems and some people have difficulty swallowing. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea are possible side effects for almost any medication taken by mouth. Suppositories although effective are highly unpopular and are usually considered only as a last resort. Injections often induce a fear factor and cause at least some pain. Also a certain amount of skill needs to be required by the person administering the injection. If a medication can be applied to the skin and if it can cross the barrier of the skin most of these problems can be solved.

Transdermal formulations such as patches, creams and gels are able to carry medication across the skin and offer an alternative method of treatment. Patches that contain an accurate measured dose are most commonly used for carrying estrogen or testosterone as hormone replacement therapy. Nicotine replacement therapy patches are well known to help people stop smoking. There is also a potent medicine called scopolamine that is applied in patch form for treating sea sickness. A powerful opiate, for severe pain, called Fentanyl is also available in a patch.

A number of substances have gathered interest for their ability to carry drugs with them across the barrier of the skin and into the body. Dimethyl sulfoxide or DMSO as it is more commonly known is one such chemical with this ability. Grapeseed oil which is high in linoleic acid has this transdermal property. The Australian Emu produces an oil, also high in linoleic acid that acts as a medicine carrier as well as having anti-inflammatory properties and has become popular for those seeking to treat aches and pains.

There are a number of non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that are suitable for use in a transdermal base. The main disadvantage of NSAIDs is that they tend to cause stomach irritation when taken orally and if use is prolonged may lead to gastric bleeding. Applying a NSAID medicine to the skin has the benefit of being able to bypass the stomach and also allows the user to target the painful area. Stomach problems with transdermal use of this class of medicines become almost non existent.

NSAIDs such as Ketoprofen, Ibuprofen and Diclofenac are all available in transdermal gel formulations. Oruvail gel contains ketoprofen while Nurofen Gel contains ibuprofen. Voltaren Emulgel contains Diclofenac and is the most popular brand due to it having a longer lasting action. Diclofenac is for most people the NSAID of choice due to its long duration of activity and effectiveness.

Transdermal pain gels are used to treat the pain and inflammation of joint and muscle pain. These gels may be used for local application for inflamed tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints due to trauma, soft tissue rheumatism and localised rheumatic diseases. In practice there is usually little concern regarding side effects unless one has an allergy to any of the ingredients.

Application of diclofenac gel consists of gently rubbing in a small amount to the swollen or painful area two to three times daily. There is no greasy residue or staining involved and shortly after application there is nothing to see on the skin after the product has been rubbed in. Many users notice a slight cooling effect after application.

Transdermal gels will find a place for those that have difficulty in swallowing medicines or for those that suffer stomach related side effects from taking NSAIDs.
About the Author
Bruce Wilson is a qualified New Zealand pharmacist and owner of Strand Arcade Pharmacy. Bruce invites you to read more about Voltaren Emulgel and other health and beauty products from New Zealand at http://www.StrandArcadePharmacy.co.nz
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