Benzocaine is a local anesthetic mostly used to relieve pain, itching from some ear conditions or in cough drops. It is the active ingredient in many Over The Counter anesthetics ointments like products for oral ulcers and is also combined with antipyrine to form A/B Otic drops to remove ear wax or to relieve pain.
Benzocaine was first synthesized by German chemist Eduard Ritsert in 1890, and it was launched into the market in 1902, under the brand name “Anaesthesia”. It belongs to a class of medicines called topical local anesthetics. It deadens the nerve endings if the skin and unlike general anesthetics doesn’t cause unconsciousness when used in surgery. It is an over the counter medicine and doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription. However, it should not be used for infants under one-year-old.
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How is benzocaine used?
It is used in the treatment of some pain-related conditions such as
§ Local anesthesia of pharyngeal and oral mucous membranes including a sore throat, canker sores, cold sores, toothache, denture irritation and sore gums
§ Otic pain i.e. ear ache
§ Procedural local or surgical anesthesia
It is used in several formulations such as
§ Topical preparation: Aerosol, Gel, Paste
§ Oral preparation: Lozenges
§ Otic preparation: Solution
§ Other uses:
It is used as the main ingredient in several pharmaceutical products such as glycerol-based ear medications used for removing ear wax as well as relieving ear conditions like swimmer’s ear.
It is used in condoms designed to prevent premature ejaculation. It works by inhibiting penis sensitivity, and so allowing for an erection to be maintained for longer and delaying ejaculation.
It is used in mucoadhesive patches to reduce orthodontic pain
Benzocaine is also a research chemical famous for it anesthetic effect.
What are the side effects?
It is non-toxic and is normally well tolerated if applied topically as recommended. Most people using this medicine don’t report serious side effects. However, it should be noted that over application of topical products or applying topical products with high concentrations of Benzocaine can have serious, even life-threatening side effects. It is important to inform the doctor immediately in case of any serious side effects like burning, redness, sting, severe tiredness, weakness or new pain around or in an ear.
How does it work?
Benzocaine works by inhibiting the voltage-dependent sodium channels known as VDSC’s on the nerve membrane and stopping the propagation of action potential. Pain is caused by the stimulation of free nerve endings. The stimulation of the nerve endings causes sodium to enter the neuron resulting in the polarization of the nerve, and an action potential is initiated. The action potential is transmitted down the nerve toward the central nervous system that interprets it as pain.
Precaution to take before use
Before using this medication let you doctor or pharmacist know of any allergies you may have. The medication may have inactive ingredients that can cause allergic or other problems. It should not be used by those who have certain medical conditions: Inform the doctor or pharmacist of your medical history in case of ear surgery or injuries, a hole in the drum or ear discharge. It is also to be used sparingly during pregnancy.