- Side Effects
- Drug Interactions
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
- What Else to Know
Generic Name: capsaicin topical
Drug Class: Analgesics, Topical; TRPV1 Agonists, Topical
What is capsaicin topical, and what is it used for?
Capsaicin topical is available over the counter (OTC) as topical creams, gels, and liquids. Capsaicin is also used off-label to relieve nerve pain (neuralgia) caused by certain nerve conditions (neuropathies).
Capsaicin is an oleoresin, the active compound in chili peppers that causes a burning sensation when it comes into contact with any tissue. Capsaicin works on the counter-irritation principle, initially irritating nerve endings under the skin where it is applied, but continued exposure desensitizes the nerve cells (neurons), providing relief from pain. Capsaicin only provides temporary analgesia and does not treat the underlying condition.
Capsaicin desensitizes transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV1), also known as capsaicin receptors. TRPV1 are ion channels on nerve cell membranes and desensitizing them prevents transmission of pain. In addition, capsaicin also locally depletes substance P, a natural chemical involved in neurotransmission of pain.
In addition to muscle and joint pain, other uses of capsaicin topical include:
- Do not use if you are hypersensitive to capsaicin.
- You may experience a transient burning sensation which generally resolves after a few days of use.
- Do not apply on wounds, broken, irritated or damaged skin or skin folds.
- Do not apply within one hour after a bath, hot tub, sauna or shower.
- Do not cover with a bandage.
- Do not apply external heat, including heat pad, after topical application.
- Do not use capsaicin immediately before or after activities such as swimming, showering, bathing, strenuous exercise, sunbathing, sauna, steam bath, or other types of heat. Avoid exposure of treated areas to sunlight.
- If you develop chemical burns from capsaicin, discontinue use. Contact your physician if you have pain, blistering, or swelling from the burn injury.
- Contact your physician if:
- You develop excessive redness, blistering, burning or irritation
- Your symptoms persist for longer than 7 days
- Symptoms get worse, or resolve and then recur
- You have difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Use capsaicin with caution if you have high blood pressure (hypertension) or a history of cardiovascular events.
What are the side effects of capsaicin topical?
Common side effects of capsaicin topical include:
- Application site reactions including:
- Redness (erythema)
- Transient increased pain at the application site
- Raised bumps in the skin (papules)
- Itching (pruritus)
- Swelling (edema)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Bronchial inflammation (bronchitis)
- Sinus inflammation (sinusitis)
- Skin odor
- Skin peeling (exfoliation)
- Taste perversion (dysgeusia)
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms or serious side effects while using this drug:
- Serious heart symptoms include fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness;
- Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness, vomiting, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady;
- Severe nervous system reaction with very stiff muscles, high fever, sweating, confusion, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, and feeling like you might pass out; or
- Serious eye symptoms include blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights.
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug. Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
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What are the dosages of capsaicin topical?
- Apply to affected area three or four times daily for 3-4 consecutive weeks and evaluate efficacy; efficacy decreased if used less than 3 times daily; not to exceed 4 applications/day; wash hands with soap and water after applying
Diabetic Neuropathy (Off-label)
- Cream: Apply to affected area three or four times daily for 3-4 consecutive weeks and evaluate efficacy; not to exceed 4 applications/day; wash hands with soap and water after applying
- Safety and efficacy not established
- Systemic absorption from topical capsaicin is unlikely, hence topical application is not expected to cause serious adverse effects. Oral ingestion of topical capsaicin can cause irritation and burning sensation in the gastrointestinal tract. Exposure to mucous membranes can cause severe irritation, pain, and burning. If capsaicin gets in the eye, it can cause prolonged burning pain and tearing.
- Sips of cold milk or water may help with burning sensation in the mouth and esophagus. Rinsing with a lot of water can help relieve burning in the eyes and any capsaicin on the skin should be washed off with soap and water thoroughly.
What drugs interact with capsaicin topical?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Capsaicin topical has no listed severe, serious, moderate, or mild interactions with other drugs.
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
What else should I know about capsaicin topical?
- Use capsaicin topical exactly as per label instructions.
- Capsaicin topical is for external use only.
- Do not apply to face or scalp and avoid exposure to eyes and mucous membranes.
- Wash hands thoroughly after a topical application of capsaicin.
- Do not handle contact lenses for at least an hour after handling capsaicin.
- In case of accidental contact with eyes, nose or any sensitive areas, rinse with a lot of water and seek medical help if required, or contact Poison Control.
- Keep out of reach of children.
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Capsaicin topical is a pain-relieving (analgesic) medication available as over-the-counter (OTC) as topical creams, gels, and liquids used for the temporary relief of minor joint and muscle pains due to muscle strains, sprains, or cramps, bruises, arthritis, and backache. Capsaicin is also used off-label to relieve nerve pain (neuralgia) caused by certain nerve conditions (neuropathies). Common side effects of capsaicin topical include redness, pain, transient increased pain at the application site, raised bumps in the skin (papules), itching (pruritus), nausea, vomiting, swelling (edema), dryness, high blood pressure (hypertension), bronchial inflammation (bronchitis), sinus inflammation (sinusitis), skin odor, skin peeling (exfoliation), headache, dizziness, taste perversion (dysgeusia), and cough.
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Rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of various cardiovascular diseases including heart failure and pericarditis. Heart failure is one of the common causes of increased mortality in people with RA.
Where Is Hip Flexor Pain Felt?
Hip flexor pain is usually felt in the groin region. The groin region is where the thigh meets the pelvis. The hip flexors are some of the strongest muscles of the body. They are the ones who allow you to lift your knees toward your chest.
Early Signs of Arthritis in the Wrist
Wrist arthritis is inflammation (swelling) of one or more joints of the wrist. Wrist arthritis is long-lasting or permanent and eventually causes severe joint damage. The early signs of arthritis in the wrist include morning stiffness, redness, tenderness, pain, swelling, weakness, warmth and other symptoms.
Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the common complications of rheumatoid arthritis. Learn the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis in Thumb
The earliest sign and symptom of thumb arthritis is pain, swelling, and tenderness with activities that involve pinching action. The pain may be dull, achy, or sharp at the base of the thumb. The pain can occur when we grip, grasp, or pinch an object or use the thumb to apply force.
What Are the 7 Best Exercises for Knee Pain?
Knee pain is a common problem that can have a number of different causes. The seven best exercises for knee pain are the single-leg lift, leg stretch, hamstring curls, sit to stand, seated leg lift, heel step up and quad stretch with towel roll.
What Is the Best Brace for Knee Pain?
Finding the right knee brace for your situation can help you support your knees and alleviate pain and discomfort. Check out the center below for more medical references on knee pain, including multimedia (slideshows, images, and quizzes), related disease conditions, treatment and diagnosis, medications, and prevention or wellness.
How Do You Treat a Groin Strain?
A groin train may be treated with painkillers to manage symptoms and physical therapy to regain muscle strength. Surgery may be required in severe cases.
Pain Management: Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is chronic pain resulting from injury to the nervous system. The injury can be to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or the peripheral nervous system (nerves outside the brain and spinal cord).
What Are the Best Exercises for Back Pain?
When you are experiencing back pain, you may want to rest, but being active is good for the back. Exercising can strengthen the muscles of the back and those that support posture, as well as improve overall body health. Strengthening the muscles provides support to the spine and slowly reduces back pain.
What Is Middle Back Pain a Symptom Of?
Middle back pain is a common complaint in middle-aged individuals who sit for long hours at work. It is felt between the shoulder blades. The problem may be simply poor posture or something more serious.
Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Increase Cardiovascular Risk?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which usually affects joints, and can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
What Is a Mild Pain Reliever?
Pain relievers ease discomfort caused by injury, illness, chronic health conditions, or surgery. Learn about mild vs. strong pain relievers and what to keep in mind when taking them.
What Are the 3 Common Types of Arthritis?
The 3 most common types of arthritis include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.
What Can I Do for a Muscle Strain in My Back?
Muscle strain is sometimes called a pulled muscle. Treat a muscle strain in your back with ice, rest, compression, and heat or a see a doctor for an evaluation of a severe muscle strain in your back.
Do Anti-Inflammatories Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder. Anti-inflammatory medications can help address symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
What Is the Best Exercise for Back Pain?
We are often a bit negligent toward our back while doing chores or physical exercise. While the causes for back pain may vary, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are crucial for keeping the back healthy.
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Joint Pain
- Neck Pain (Cervicalgia)
- Sprained Ankle
- Occipital Neuralgia
- Postherpetic Neuralgia
- Neuropathic Pain
- Arthritis Treatment Update
- Arthritis Pain Relief Update
- Mind-Body-Pain Connection: How Does It Work?
- Acupuncture: Targeting Chronic Pain
- Arthritis and Active Sports
- Meditation for Stress and Pain with Karen Eastman, Ph.D., Lobsang Rapgay, Ph.D., and Lonnie Zeltz
- Headaches FAQs
- Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQs
- Back Pain FAQs
- Pain FAQs
- Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis
- What if I get COVID-19 with Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- Patient Story: Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
- Patient Story: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pregnancy
- Pain and Stress: Endorphins: Natural Pain and Stress Fighters
- Pain (Acute and Chronic)
- Pain Management: OTC NSAIDs - Doctors Dialogue
- Pain Management Over-The-Counter
- Arthritis - Whether Weather Affects Arthritis
- Fibromyalgia 2002 Arthritis Conference Report
- Doctors Answer Pain Questions
- What Causes Foot Pain During Exercise?
- Can Glucosamine Treat Arthritis?
- What Pain Medication Can I Take While on Warfarin?
- Can You Be Too Young for a Knee Replacement?
- Can Fifth Disease Cause Arthritis Pain?
- Sciatica Pain Vs. Fibromyalgia Pain: What Are The Differences?
- What Causes Rectal Muscle Spasms?
- Does Pain Medication Affect Men and Women Differently?
- What Is Breakthrough Pain?
- How Do I Treat Fibromyalgia Pain?
- Can Microscopic Colitis Cause Joint Pain?
- How Can I Get Rid of Hemorrhoid Pain?
- Can My Diet Improve Arthritis?
- Symptoms and Signs of Sprains and Strains
- Home Remedies, Treatment, and Prevention of Sprains and Strains
- Diagnosing Sprains and Strains
- Patient Story: Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment
Medications & Supplements
Prevention & Wellness
Pain Management Resources
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