A lidocaine patch is a small piece of adhesive-backed polyester infused with the pain medication lidocaine. Lidocane is a commonly used local anesthetic that operates by inhibiting the transmission of pain signals to the brain. The lidocaine patch contains 700 milligrams — or 5% — lidocaine.
The patch is just one of many types of lidocaine treatment options. Other lidocaine pain relief alternatives include lidocaine cream, lidocaine ointment, or a lidocaine injection, all of which are highly effective at combating discomfort. They are typically prescribed for the treatment of pain associated with neuropathic conditions such as shingles or post-herpetic neuralgia.
Lidocaine patches work optimally when used on clean, dry skin surfaces. Patients are advised not to affix the patch to an area of irritated or inflamed skin and to monitor the condition of the skin around and under the patch. If redness or swelling occurs, it is recommended that patients let their doctor know immediately.
The lidocaine drug negatively interacts with certain medications. Among these drugs are disopyramide (Norpace®), flecainide (Tambocor®), mexiletine (Mexitil®), and procainamide (Procanabid®, Pronestyl®), to name just a few. These medications are prescribed to regulate abnormal heartbeat and could create disturbances to the heart when taken with lidocaine. Lidocaine may also interact with other types of local anesthesia.
There are several possible side effects associated with the lidocaine patch, though none are particularly common. Slight irritation around the patch, light-headedness, dizziness, and nausea are sometimes reported. Even rarer are allergic reactions, seizures, distorted vision, and vomiting. In general, lidocaine medication is well tolerated and is the anesthetic of choice for those suffering from shingles.
When handling the lidocaine patch, patients are encouraged to exercise caution. By thoroughly washing the hands before and after applying the patch, a patient can avoid spreading the medication to others. Patients are also careful to avoid eye contact as lidocaine can irritate the eyes.
A typical dosage of the lidocaine patch varies by patient. Patches can be worn for up to 12 hours within a 24-hour period. A doctor will advise a patient on when and how often to apply the patch.
Lidocaine should not be used by pregnant women, women planning to have a baby, or women who are breastfeeding. It should also be used with extreme caution by those who have historically had an allergic reaction to anesthetics. If a patient is already taking an anesthetic, lidocaine may not be the best choice to combat the pain and itching of shingles.