Capsaicin (On the skin)


Capsaicin (kap-SAY-sin)

Helps relieve muscle and joint pain caused by arthritis, sprains, and strains. Also used for nerve pain (neuralgia) that may be caused by shingles.

Brand Name(s)

Axsain, Capsin, Castiva Arthritis Pain Relief, Icy Hot Arthritis Therapy, Qutenza, Rid-A-Pain, Rid-A-Pain-HP, Rite Aid Arthritis Pain Relief, Theragen, Trixaicin, Trixaicin HP, Zostrix, Zostrix Diabetic Foot Pain, Zostrix Foot Pain, Zostrix High Potency

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

How to Use This Medicine

Cream, Thin Sheet, Gel/Jelly, Liquid, Lotion, Ointment, Pad, Patch, Stick

  • Use this medicine only on your skin. Rinse it off right away if it gets on a cut or scrape. Do not get the medicine in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • If you are using the cream, lotion, ointment, gel, or liquid:
    • Follow the instructions on the medicine label if you are using this medicine without a prescription.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you use this medicine. If you are using capsaicin for arthritis in your hands, do not wash your hands for at least 30 minutes after applying it. Avoid touching sensitive areas such as your eyes or mouth while the medicine is on your hands.
    • Shake the lotion well before using.
    • Apply a small amount of the cream, lotion, ointment, gel, or liquid medicine over the affected area. Rub it in until you cannot see any medicine left on your skin.
    • You may need to use the medicine for 2 weeks or more before it relieves your pain. Keep using the medicine every day. If the medicine has not helped after a month, or if your pain becomes worse after a week, talk with your doctor.
    • You may feel burning or stinging when you rub in the medicine. The burning or stinging usually stops after you use the medicine for a few days, but it may last 2 to 4 weeks. The burning sensation will not improve or go away if you reduce the number of doses you use each day. Using fewer doses may also reduce the amount of pain relief you get.
    • If a bandage is being used on the treated area, do not wrap it tightly.
  • If you are using the Qutenza? patch:
    • Take your medicine as directed.
    • A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine.
    • Do not touch the patch while it is on your skin.
    • You may have some skin redness, burning, or a stinging sensation at the place where the patch is applied. If this irritation is severe or does not go away, call your doctor.

If a dose is missed:

  • Apply a dose as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and apply a regular dose. Do not apply extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor how to dispose of the medicine container and any leftover or expired medicine.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Talk to your doctor before you use any other skin medicine on the same area where you are using the capsaicin.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are using the patch, tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure or a history of heart or blood vessel problems.
  • You should not use the medicine on open wounds, sores, scrapes, or irritated skin.
  • You may have some skin redness, burning, or a stinging sensation at the application site. Heat, humidity, bathing in warm water, or sweating may increase the burning sensation. If this irritation is severe or does not go away, call your doctor.
  • Be careful not to get any of this medicine in your eyes, because it can cause severe eye irritation. If the medicine does get in your eyes, wash the eyes with water and check with your doctor right away.
  • If capsaicin gets on your face, scalp, or in your mouth, it may cause a burning sensation. Wash these areas with warm (not hot) soapy water.
  • This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Wear sunscreen. Do not use sunlamps or tanning beds.
  • Your doctor might give you oral pain medicines (e.g., opioids, narcotics) while the patch is in place and after it is removed. These medicines may make you dizzy or drowsy. Avoid driving, using machines, or doing anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert.
  • Do not use this medicine to treat a skin problem your doctor has not examined.
  • Your doctor will check your progress and the effects of this medicine at regular visits. Keep all appointments. Your blood pressure will be measured while the patch is on your skin and after it has been removed. If you notice any change to your recommended blood pressure at home, call your doctor right away. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.
  • Check with your doctor right away if you have coughing, shortness of breath, or any breathing problems after the patch is removed or after the cream, lotion, or ointment has dried on the skin.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Burning or stinging sensation.
  • Fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat (patch only).
  • Severe skin irritation, pain, redness, or swelling that was not there before you started using the medicine.

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Nausea or vomiting (patch only).
  • Runny or stuffy nose (patch only).
  • Skin itching or dryness.

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/4/2014

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