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Qutenza side effects: A detailed guide

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More common side effectsMild side effectsSerious side effectsFAQSide effects in detailWarnings
Qutenza is prescribed for certain types of nerve pain. It may cause mild or serious side effects. These include pain and itching at the application site.
Medically reviewed by Beth Johnston, PharmD, BCPS
Updated on

Specifically, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Qutenza to treat the following conditions in adults:

This article describes possible side effects of Qutenza treatment. You can learn more about Qutenza by talking with your doctor.

Qutenza is a brand-name medication that comes as a topical application system. It isn’t available in a generic version.

Treatment with Qutenza must be performed by a healthcare professional. Do not apply or remove Qutenza yourself.

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More common side effects of Qutenza

Qutenza may cause mild or serious side effects. Below are some of the more common side effects of this medication.

Commonly reported side effects of Qutenza treatment include the following application site reactions:*

  • skin redness or discoloration
  • pain
  • itching
  • papules
  • swelling

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects of Qutenza in detail” section below.

Mild side effects of Qutenza

Qutenza may cause certain mild side effects. Most often, mild side effects are temporary and can be easily managed. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have side effects that don’t go away or become bothersome.

Mild side effects of Qutenza that occurred in studies include:

  • bronchitis
  • cough
  • dizziness
  • eye itchiness
  • headache
  • nausea
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • skin itchiness
  • vomiting
  • mild application site reactions*

Qutenza may cause more mild side effects than those listed above. For details, see the drug’s prescribing information.

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects of Qutenza in detail” section below.

Serious side effects of Qutenza

Qutenza may cause certain serious side effects. If you have any serious side effects from Qutenza, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency or your side effects feel life threatening, take immediate action. Call 911 or a local emergency number, or go to the nearest emergency room.

After the FDA approves a drug, it tracks and reviews side effects of the medication. Visit MedWatch’s website if you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Qutenza.

Serious side effects of Qutenza that occurred in studies include:

  • severe irritation if Qutenza comes into contact with other parts of your body, such as your eyes or mouth
  • severe application site reactions*
  • loss of sensory function*
  • short-term increased blood pressure*

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects of Qutenza in detail” section below.

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Allergic reaction

For some people, Qutenza can cause an allergic reaction. But this side effect wasn’t reported in the drug’s studies.

In general, symptoms of allergic reaction can be mild or serious. You can learn more about possible symptoms in this article.

Ways to manage

For mild allergic reaction symptoms, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may recommend treatments to help manage your symptoms. They’ll also let you know whether you should keep taking the medication.

For severe allergic reaction symptoms, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms require immediate medical care because they can become life threatening. If you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to Qutenza, your doctor may recommend taking a different medication instead.

Common questions about side effects of Qutenza

Here are answers to some common questions about side effects of Qutenza. If you have other questions, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Can Qutenza cause liver-related side effects?

No, it’s not thought to. Liver-related side effects weren’t reported in studies of Qutenza.

Qutenza is a topical medication. It’s applied by a healthcare professional to your skin to treat certain types of nerve pain. Very little (or sometimes, no amount of) Qutenza is absorbed by your body. If any Qutenza is absorbed, most of it will leave your body within a few hours.

The active ingredient* of Qutenza (capsaicin) has shown potential to help treat liver damage in mice in some situations. And other medications that contain capsaicin aren’t known to cause liver-related side effects in humans. So it’s unlikely that any capsaicin absorbed by your body during Qutenza treatment would cause liver damage or other liver-related side effects.

* An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.

Can Qutenza cause long-term side effects?

No, long-term side effects aren’t expected with Qutenza. In studies, specific side effects weren’t seen in people who had taken the drug for a long time. Long lasting side effects after treatment ended also weren’t reported.

Talk with your doctor if you have more questions about possible long-term side effects with Qutenza.

Side effects of Qutenza in detail

Below you’ll find details on some of the side effects of Qutenza.

Application site reactions

In studies, application site reactions were common in people using Qutenza. These side effects are usually mild but may be serious in rare instances.

Application site reactions reported with Qutenza include:

  • skin redness or discoloration
  • pain
  • itching
  • papules
  • swelling
  • burning

For most people, application site reactions go away within a few hours after Qutenza is removed.

Ways to manage

Before applying Qutenza, your healthcare professional may apply a local anesthetic to the treated area. This is intended to help prevent pain and burning at the application site. And after Qutenza is applied, they can quickly treat any pain you develop using an ice pack or an appropriate pain reliever medication, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol).

If you experience symptoms of application site reactions from Qutenza treatment that don’t go away or become severe, contact your doctor.

Loss of sensory function

In studies, loss of sensory function was rare in people using Qutenza. This side effect is usually mild but may be serious in rare cases.

Examples of losing sensory function include the following in or around the area where Qutenza is applied:

  • decreased ability to feel heat
  • decreased ability to feel pain

In most people, loss of sensory function after Qutenza is applied is temporary and goes away shortly after Qutenza is removed.

Certain factors can increase the risk of sensory function loss with Qutenza. These include having an existing condition that affects sensory function, such as hypoesthesia or other conditions causing impaired sensation.

Ways to manage

If you experience symptoms of sensory function loss, tell your doctor. They may suggest stopping treatment with Qutenza and exploring other treatments for your nerve pain.

Short-term increased blood pressure

In studies, short-term high blood pressure was rare in people using Qutenza. This side effect is usually mild. But for some people, it may be serious.

A short-term increase in blood pressure may happen during or shortly after treatment with Qutenza. In studies, this increase lasted an average of about 2 hours. These studies showed that increased blood pressure was related to pain caused by Qutenza treatment.

In most people, a short-term small increase in blood pressure won’t cause symptoms. However, in people with high blood pressure or other heart problems that are not well managed, even a small increase can cause serious heart-related complications. It could even trigger a hypertensive emergency.

Certain factors can increase the risk of complications caused by short-term blood pressure increases with Qutenza. These include:

Ways to manage

A healthcare professional will monitor your blood pressure while Qutenza is applied to you. They’ll have treatments ready should you experience a dangerous increase in pressure. And, they’ll also have treatments ready for any pain related to Qutenza application. Quickly treating your pain can help prevent large, sudden increases in blood pressure during treatment with Qutenza.

Warnings for Qutenza

Below are some factors you may want to discuss with your doctor before taking Qutenza.


It may not be safe for you to take Qutenza if you have specific health conditions. These are sometimes called drug-condition interactions. Other things may also affect whether Qutenza is a safe treatment option for you.

Before taking Qutenza, tell your doctor about your health. Things to consider include:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart conditions, such as arrhythmia or heart failure
  • recent heart attack or stroke
  • any condition that causes problems with touch or other sensory functions
  • past allergic reaction to Qutenza

Qutenza and pregnancy

It’s not known for certain whether Qutenza should be used during pregnancy. Because your body absorbs very little Qutenza after it’s applied, it’s not expected to affect a pregnancy. Still, there isn’t enough data at this time to conclusively say the drug is safe to use during pregnancy.

If you’re planning a pregnancy or can become pregnant, talk with your doctor before being treated with Qutenza.

Qutenza and breastfeeding

It’s not known whether Qutenza should be used while breastfeeding. Your body isn’t expected to absorb much, if any, Qutenza after it’s applied. So the drug isn’t expected to be in your breast milk or affect breast milk production. But there haven’t been studies that show the drug is definitively safe to use while breastfeeding.

If you’re currently breastfeeding or planning to do so, talk with your doctor before having Qutenza treatments.

Qutenza and alcohol

Qutenza isn’t known to interact with alcohol.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about whether it’s safe to consume it during your treatment with Qutenza.

Disclaimer: Optum Perks has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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