Diclofenac sodium gel, which is also familiarized with brand names Voltaren and Solaraze, is a known nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (or NSAID) that is mainly used as a topical gel to externally treat osteoarthritis and muscle strain, particularly on the knees and hands.
Topical gels are medications that are applied to certain parts of the body. Since these gels are not to be taken internally, they are considered to be safe for use.
So, how different is diclofenac sodium gel from oral diclofenac and other anti-inflammatory drugs? And when is it necessary to use diclofenac sodium gel?
Diclofenac As Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug
Before using any kind of medication, it is important to be knowledgeable about it. In the case of diclofenac sodium gel, it is categorized as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs, are medications that aids in the treatment of arthritis and any other disease accompanied with pain and of which are often associated with the joints. These NSAIDs can be taken orally, injected into the body, or applied to the skin.
These NSAIDs, however, differ from one another. The NSAID to be used depends on the intensity of the condition and the pain felt by the patient. There are some normally used NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen which are taken when the person experiences mild to moderate pain. In the case of severe pain, a much stronger NSAID must be given.
Diclofenac Sodium Gel is then used for minor pain issues from having osteoarthritis. It has weaker results compared to other NSAIDs, but what is good about this topical medication is it does not give the patient the same side effects; like nausea, development of ulcer, or kidney failure, which are some of the most common side effects from using NSAIDs.
Diclofenac Sodium Gel: For Topical Use
Medications that are labeled as “for topical use only” are basically those medications that are directly applied to the skin. It does its wonders by getting absorbed by the epidermis and glands of the skin, then it is directed to the nervous system of the body. They are easy to use and are proven to be effective against minor ailments.
Topical medications range from creams, gels, foams, lotions, and ointments.
When compared to oral diclofenac, the sodium gel is easier to use. They also differ when it comes to strength. The oral medications are used for more extensive cases of the disease while the topical gels are for minor instances.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease that targets a person’s joints, thus making them weaker and exposed to joint pains. This kind of condition can be experienced by middle-aged people and people with old age. The most common joints that are affected by osteoarthritis are the hips, hands, knees, and spine.
Osteoarthritis is sometimes confused with arthritis – which is originally called as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While osteoarthritis is described as the degeneration of the joints themselves, rheumatoid arthritis is an effect of an autoimmune condition.
To be more familiar with osteoarthritis, here are the most common symptoms that will be present when experiencing osteoarthritis:
- Stiffness This is felt after the joint is suddenly moved after a long period of inactivity.
- Loss of Flexibility When you try to move the joint, you are incapable of moving it to its fullest capacity.
- Pain You start moving and there is a sudden pain. This can be felt before you start moving or while you are moving.
- Inflammation A small bump may appear on the joint area, this is caused by a possible inflammation.
Grating sensation You may hear a squeaking sound when you move the affected joint, this is due to the joint degeneration.
Tenderness The joint may feel soft and light when applied with light pressure.
Since osteoarthritis is different from rheumatoid arthritis, these two conditions are treated differently too. Rheumatoid arthritis instead are treated with medications called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or also called DMARDs.
When to Use Diclofenac Sodium Gel?
As mentioned, this topical gel is used for minor pain caused by osteoarthritis. It can be applied specifically to the hands and knees.
It is also considered safer to use than oral medications but there are still precautions when using this as a treatment.
- Always ask the doctor for the right amount of dosage.
- When using topical gels, leave the mediation for about an hour before washing the affected area.
- After applying the medication, be sure to wash the hands as soon as possible, except when the treatment area is the hands, you must leave it for an hour.
- Do not apply to open wounds.
- Avoid contact with the eyes. In case of emergency, immediately seek for professional medical help.
- Avoid using the sodium gel together with other topical products such as lotions, sunscreens, moisturizers, and any other skin product.
Side Effects: A Precaution
Diclofenac, just like any other NSAIDs, is an effective drug that also brings a lot of side effects at the same time.
Here are some possible side effects from too much use and misuse of diclofenac:
- Too much use of NSAIDs can cause cardiovascular thrombotic events or stroke. This is a serious issue and must be avoided at all cost since there is a possibility that this will lead to sudden death. The cardiovascular thrombotic events happen when there is a blood clot formation inside a blood vessel, thus it creates a hindrance. In turn, the blood flow in the circulatory system gets blocked.
- Too much use of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcer. This happens when there is serious bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Too much use of NSAIDs can cause hypertension. Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is when the patient’s blood pressure elevates into a high level, sometimes even dramatically.
- Too much use of NSAIDs can cause renal toxicity. Renal toxicity is the toxicity of the kidneys.
- Too much use of NSAIDs can cause heart failure.
- Too much use of NSAIDs can cause serious skin issues and reactions. The use of medication must be immediately stopped at the sight of even a single rash on the skin.