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Qutenza patch treatment

Qutenza patch treatment can help relieve certain types of nerve pain

Qutenza is a patch impregnated with an 8% capsaicin content which is then applied to the skin. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chilli, the thing which makes it burn the tongue. As we know, when we eat too much chilli we can't feel anything with our mouth immediately afterwards. A Qutenza patch is a measured and medical method of using the same effect to remove pain.

Qutenza is a cutaneous patch, one that is applied to the surface of the skin. The patch contains capsaicin, that active ingredient from chilli. This is made in the laboratory, it is not extracted from chilli peppers themselves. The capsaicin acts as an anaesthetic. The effect of a Qutenza patch is to remove or minimise pain stemming from the area it is applied to.

The use of a Qutenza patch is to reduce the pain caused by damaged nerve endings. That same effect on the mouth of capsaicin in chilli will reduce or even eliminate the neuralgic pain those damaged nerves are causing.

A Qutenza patch works by reducing the ability of the nerves to transmit pain on to the brain. Use of Qutenza is indicated when there are those damaged nerve endings which are excessively sending those pain signals. By dampening down the message being sent, the pain perceived is reduced.

There are a number of possible causes of this symptom. Diabetic nerve pain of the feet is one example, post-shingles pain on or around where the blisters were. If there is pain from clothes brushing the skin, or water touching it – allodynia. Sometimes arthritis will cause significant pain in the skin.

The underlying cause of the pain can be many things, Qutenza is treating the symptom of that pain. Once other direct possible causes are ruled out, and it is the pain from nerve endings that remains, then Qutenza can be the treatment.  

There can also be post-surgical pain. This might be the result of nerves being damaged during the surgery procedure. This is an unfortunate side effect of that other treatment. It is not until 6 months or so after surgery that this is a new problem. Before that period is up the pain can be simply the recovery process. If it persists then a Qutenza patch can be used.

Adding capsaicin to the skin is not something that should be tried at home. Do not home remedy with chilli. A Qutenza patch should be applied by a doctor or more likely pain management nurse.

The skin will be washed with soap and dried. Then any hair in the area will be clipped. The most painful areas will be detailed with a pen or marker. A numbing gel or cream might be applied to reduce stinging – an anaesthetic to minimise the pain of applying an anaesthetic – which, if used, will be washed off before the Qutenza application.

The Qutenza patch itself is a backing covered with a capsaicin infused gel. This is then covered for packaging. At the time of treatment the cover is removed, and the active ingredient applied to the skin. 

The patch might be cut up into smaller pieces to more precisely match the painful areas. After application the patch – or pieces – will be left in place for 30 minutes if they're on your feet, 60 minutes or one hour if on other areas of the body. A bandage may be used to keep the patch in place, and it will be the doctor or nurse who removes this.

No more than four Qutenza patches will be used in any one treatment. More areas can be treated by cutting the patch into pieces.

At the end of the treatment the patch, bandage if used, will be removed and a cleansing gel be applied to the affected area. This gel is specific to the Qutenza treatment, it counteracts the ongoing effects and presence of the capsaicin on the skin.

The patch itself will likely sting or make the skin red and itch. It is possible to have pain relief to deal with this.

It will usually take one to three weeks to gain pain relief from the use of a Qutenza patch.

Once the treatment is finished then the Qutenza recovery time is over. There are no restrictions on driving or other activities. Once the half or one hour application time is finished and the area cleaned and dried then that's it.

It is possible for pain from the Qutenza application to last for a day or two. If it lasts longer than that, or associated skin irritation or redness, then speak to the medical provider about this.

The pain for which Qutenza is used might take one to three weeks to start to diminish. The effect might last for many months.

It is possible to repeat Qutenza treatment every three months to the same site if it should be beneficial and also need repeating.

The capsaicin contained within Qutenza mean that some of the risks are similar to those of chilli. The application site itself may itch, become red or be painful during the treatment. These effects will last for perhaps a couple of days.

Qutenza should not be applied on the face or head, nor on any areas of broken skin or open wounds. Do not touch the patch or treated area and if you do definitely do not then touch your eyes or mouth. This also applies to other sensitive areas. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before using a toilet.

Qutenza can raise blood pressure so if you have high pressure, or have had heart problems, your doctor will consider possible side effects before treatment. The treatment can also cause a runny or stuffy nose and sneezing.

Qutenza contains capsaicin, the active ingredient within chilli and paprika. An allergy to any of the three, chilli, paprika, capsaicin, means that Qutenza should not be used.

It is advised to cease breastfeeding before treatment with Qutenza.

The risks and side effects of a Qutenza patch come in four different groupings. Those from accidental exposure – severe irritation of eyes, nose, mouth and so on. Or from touching the patch or treated area and then going on to touch other sensitive areas.

Secondly, from the application itself, generally localised pain at the point of treatment. This will be diminished by the topical anaesthetic. Thirdly, blood pressure will increase and for those with other blood pressure problems this could be a contraindication of use.

Finally, there could be some reduction in sensory function on and around the area treated.

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