Below is a list of FAQs about post-shingles pain, Qutenza®, and safety.
Shingles is a disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. In people with shingles, the chickenpox virus, which has been inactive in the body, returns and travels along the nerves in the skin, causing a rash, blisters, and pain. In some people, the pain can continue after the shingles rash has healed. Pain after shingles is known as postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. PHN pain can last for months or even years.
Click here to use our Pain Profile Tool to help you have a discussion with your doctor about the post-shingles pain you are experiencing and what can be done to reduce this pain.
There are several treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pain after shingles. There are oral medicines, meaning they are taken by mouth. These need to be taken daily and work by traveling through the body, acting on the nervous system. There is also a skin patch product that is applied to the site of pain every day and left on for up to 12 hours.
Another option is Qutenza®, a unique, FDA-approved skin patch that—after a single, 1-hour treatment—can provide 3 months of relief from post-shingles pain. Qutenza® is applied by your doctor or by a healthcare professional under the close supervision of your doctor.
Qutenza® is a patch that can provide 3 months of pain relief from a single, 1-hour application. Qutenza® is designed to deliver medicine into the skin, right to the nerves that cause pain after shingles. The medicine in Qutenza® is capsaicin, a substance naturally found in chili peppers. Qutenza® is the first and only pure, concentrated, synthetic capsaicin prescription drug.
Capsaicin is the substance in chili peppers that gives them their heat sensation.
Capsaicin provides pain reduction by acting on the damaged nerves in the skin that cause pain after shingles. The pain relief can last 3 months after only a single, 1-hour Qutenza® application. The effects of capsaicin diminish over the course of several months.
Qutenza® can provide 3 months of relief from post-shingles pain after a single 1-hour application, unlike many other medicines that have to be taken every day. Qutenza® works by delivering medicine to the pain nerves in the skin at the site of your pain, unlike pills taken by mouth, which need to travel through your body to work. Qutenza® is applied once every 3 or more months by your doctor or healthcare professional and is not likely to have side effects such as sedation or confusion.
In clinical studies with people who have pain after shingles, many people experienced pain relief with Qutenza® during the first week that lasted throughout the 12-week studies.1 Qutenza® has been shown to be equally effective for patients who are already taking other pain medicines.2 Qutenza® is unlikely to interact with other medicines you may be taking. Like any medicine, Qutenza® may not work for everyone. Only you and your doctor can decide if Qutenza® is right for you.
The expected side effects from Qutenza® are redness and a burning sensation where Qutenza® is applied, similar to the feeling many people get from hot chili peppers. A numbing skin cream is applied to the site of pain prior to applying Qutenza® to reduce treatment-related discomfort. These side effects are most common during and shortly after the treatment and generally last a few hours, though they can last longer. Your doctor or healthcare professional may use cold packs or pain medicine to reduce treatment-related discomfort. The most common serious side effects during Qutenza® treatment are pain where Qutenza® is applied and increased blood pressure. Click here to learn about the safety of Qutenza®.
Qutenza® contains pure, concentrated, synthetic capsaicin capable of producing irritation of the eyes, skin, or other parts of the body. It must be handled by a doctor or healthcare professional who is familiar with proper Qutenza® administration, handling it with special gloves, and disposal to prevent accidental contact with Qutenza®. Also, your blood pressure needs to be monitored during your treatment because the response to pain during the treatment may cause blood pressure to increase.
While the actual Qutenza® treatment takes 60 minutes, the total time (including preparation for treatment) will be longer and can vary. There are 5 main steps involved in the process:
Click here to learn more about what happens during the Qutenza® treatment.
Some pain during the treatment is common, due to the pure, concentrated, synthetic capsaicin in Qutenza®. So it's important that you tell your doctor or healthcare professional how you are feeling during the application process. Don't just "tough it out"—tell them about your pain. They can help reduce your discomfort. Your healthcare professional may use cold packs or pain medicine to reduce treatment-related discomfort. Also, because the pain may cause an increase in blood pressure, your doctor or healthcare professional will measure your blood pressure during your treatment.
Qutenza® is unlikely to have an effect on your ability to drive. Some patients may require temporary use of pain-reducing medicines during and after their treatment. Some of these medicines, such as opioid analgesics, may influence your ability to drive or use machinery on the days they are taken. Talk to your doctor before your appointment about whether or not you should have someone to drive you home after the treatment.
For a few days after the treatment, the treated area may be sensitive to heat, so avoid hot showers or baths, direct sunlight, and exercising.
Tell your doctor or healthcare professional if you:
Qutenza® is a prescription patch administered by a physician or other healthcare professional under the close supervision of a physician.
To get Qutenza®, ask your doctor about it or click here to use the Doctor Finder to locate a doctor near you who offers Qutenza®.
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