Capsaicin creams work topically by reducing the amount of substance P in your body. Substance P assists your body in sending pain messages to your brain.
Capsaicin creams are used to treat pain caused by:
- aches and sprains
- neuralgia, or pain from nerves that are close to the skin
- rheumatoid arthritis
Capsaicin creams are also used to treat pain in the fingers and toes.
Capsaicin is part of the capsaicinoid group, a family of chemicals found in chili peppers that makes them taste hot. Chili peppers probably developed capsaicin as a defense against plant-eating animals, although birds can eat chilies without any problems. Capsaicin is considered to be one of the two hottest components of the capsaicinoid group.
Brand names for capsaicin creams in the United States are Zostrix® and Zostrix HP®. While you can purchase capsaicin cream without a prescription, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor for any special instructions that he might have in regard to your treatment.
Keep in mind that capsaicin cream will only treat your pain. The cream will not cure your condition. Also, keep in mind that capsaicin is a medication that requires patience. It can take up to six weeks for capsaicin creams to work, depending on your condition.
IMPORTANT CAPSAICIN WARNING:
IF YOU OR SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY EATS CAPSAICIN CREAM, CONTACT POISON CONTROL OR YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY HOSPITAL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Capsaicin Creams and Precautions
Before using capsaicin creams, consider consulting your physician if you:
- are an older adult
- are breast feeding
- are considering using the cream on children
- under the age of 2
- are pregnant
- have food or preservative allergies, particularly allergies related to chilies or capsaicin itself.
Studies have not yet been conducted on effects of capsaicin creams on older adults and on how much capsaicin is passed through to breast milk. Capsaicin is not thought to cause birth defects, but it is always wise to consult your doctor.
In addition, talk to your doctor about any other specific medical conditions that you might have before starting this treatment.
You would not want to be alone in a room with pure capsaicin. Pure capsaicin is so potent that people who work with it must wear full body suits in a filtered room in order to prevent direct contact with it.The amount of capsaicin in capsaicin cream is greatly reduced from its pure form.
Using Capsaicin Creams
Make sure that you avoid your eyes and your mouth when applying capsaicin cream. You may feel a warm, stinging or burning sensation when you first start to use the cream. This sensation should eventually go away.
Discontinue use of the cream and consult your doctor if:
- itching and burning continues for more than seven days
- itching and burning stops and then starts again
- the area where you are using capsaicin starts to get red or irritated
- your condition gets worse.
Severe side effects may include:
- shortness of breath.
Consult your doctor if you experience severe side effects.