What Is Diclofenac Gel?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2019
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Diclofenac gel is a type of topical medication often used to treat actinic keratosis, a condition that can evolve into skin cancer. It is also sometimes used to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. This gel is generally classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) making it an analgesic similar to aspirin. It normally works by inhibiting the action of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) inside the body. This can help prevent the body's inflammatory responses, and relieve pain.

This topical medication may be used differently, depending on the condition it's intended to treat. Diclofenac gel may be applied every 12 hours to help remove actinic keratosis lesions. For relief of the pain associated with arthritis, however, diclofenac gel may be massaged into the affected joints every six hours.

The medication is typically applied to the skin, so it's believed to carry a lower risk of side effects than oral analgesics of similar effectiveness. Only small amounts of the drug's active ingredients are believed to reach the bloodstream. Patients are generally advised to avoid using other skin products, including lotions and cosmetics, over the treatment area. It is generally advised that the treatment area should remain un-bandaged and open to the air as much as possible.


Some patients may not be able to use diclofenac gel. Patients who are allergic to any of the ingredients in this drug may be advised to avoid its use. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are generally advised to avoid its use.

People with serious and chronic medical conditions are generally advised to seek a physician's counsel before using diclofenac gel. Patients with heart problems or high blood pressure may not be able to use this drug. People with asthma, blood disorders and certain stomach problems may not be able to use this drug. People with heart, liver, or kidney disease or kidney failure may be advised to avoid using diclofenac gel.

Common side effects of diclofenac gel can include peeling, flaking, and dryness of the skin at the treatment area. Treated skin may experience odd sensations. Muscle pain in the back has also been known to occur as a side effect of using this drug.



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