Overview Of Benzocaine

Benzocaine, which is sold under various brand names, is a numbing medication that anesthetizes parts of the body. It blocks the nerve signals in the body, preventing your brain from processing pain. The medication has not been approved to use in children under two years old. It can be harmful if used to treat infant teething pain.    

Benzocaine is an effective pain relief treatment. Topical benzocaine may reduce discomfort and pain due to a sore throat. It may also act as a treatment for ingrown toenails, skin irritation, and hemorrhoids. This medication is also often used before medical procedures involving a tube or speculum. Patients, of course, must first understand all details of benzocaine before using it.

How It Works

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Benzocaine is available as an ointment, gel, or cream. It is applied topically to the skin or the soft tissues inside the body. Generally, this medication should not be taken orally. The medicine works by numbing nerve endings, which prevents the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. It is used for a variety of mild conditions as well as medical procedures. 

A variety of other products also use benzocaine as an active ingredient. It is in certain medications used to remove excess ear wax and treat swimmer's ear. Mucoadhesive patches have been designed using this medication to reduce pain in the jaw and mouth. It tends to come in spray form when it is used to treat a sore throat or numb the throat for other purposes. There may also be lozenges that use this ingredient to numb the throat. Some patients may use an aerosol form instead of a gel or cream.

Keep reading to learn more about the uses of this medication now.

Uses And Benefits

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Benzocaine is often used to treat minor pain and irritation of the skin, including minor burns, scrapes, and insect bites. It may also treat minor itching and pain from hemorrhoids. Other genital and anal issues that it can treat include itching around the vagina, anal fissures, and itching around the rectum. The spray version of the medication can numb a sore throat and mouth. Doctors may also use the medication to numb the vagina, rectum, or throat before inserting a medical instrument. 

The medicine should always be used as directed, and not to treat more serious conditions. Before use, individuals should clean the affected area. Rather than being prescribed on a schedule, benzocaine is to be used as needed. Suppose individuals are on another medication to help with healing an injury or medical issue. In that case, benzocaine might act as a supplemental measure to reduce irritation when it occurs.

Discover the potential side effects of this medication next.

Potential Side Effects

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Benzocaine has a variety of potential side effects, some of which can be serious. The most common side effects are stinging, itching, and burning around the application area. Patients often experience redness, tenderness, or dried-out skin and white flaky patches in this area as well. A serious condition to keep an eye out for is methemoglobinemia. This condition can cause fatal oxygen starvation in the body's tissues. Some patients develop this condition after several uses of benzocaine, while others develop it after one use. Symptoms might occur anywhere from minutes to two hours following the dosage. 

Individuals must get emergency medical care if they begin experiencing fast heartbeats, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, confusion, lethargy, or an off-color appearance to the skin and lips. They also need emergency attention if they experience symptoms of an allergic reaction. If patients deal with any blistering, swelling, severe burning, or serious sensitivity, they should stop using the medication and call their doctor right away.

Get the full details on precautions to take with this medication next.

Precautions To Remember

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Before using the medication, patients should let their doctor know if they have had an allergic reaction to it or any other '-caine' medications in the past. Patients must also give their doctor a complete medical history. Doctors need to know if their patient has any history of infection in the affected body part, breathing issues, certain blood-related issues, or heart disease. If the medication is being used before a surgical procedure, patients should inform their dentist or doctor about all of their current medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements. 

There may be some risk when using this medication during pregnancy, so experts recommend using it only when it is seriously needed. Patients can talk to their doctor regarding the different risks and potential benefits of using this medication during pregnancy. Since no studies have been done on the medication's effect on breast milk, a nursing mother should first consult their doctor.

Uncover the potential medication interactions next.

Potential Medication Interactions

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Medication interactions occur when benzocaine changes the way another drug affects an individual, or another drug changes the effects of benzocaine. Some medication combinations might increase the chances of developing serious complications. This is part of why patients should tell their doctor about all current medications and supplements. Benzocaine has relatively few drug interactions due to its use as a topical medication. However, it can have serious interactions with sodium nitrite and prilocaine. 

Prilocaine and benzocaine should not be used together because they are both from the same class of drugs. Thus, they increase an individual's chances of developing the disease that causes potentially fatal oxygen deprivation. Patients with preexisting conditions and young individuals are more vulnerable in this case. Sodium nitrite also increases the risk of developing this condition. This substance might be part of an individual's diet without them realizing it. It is a type of salt that is often used as a food preservative and antioxidant. 

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    Katherine MacAulay