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Imiquimod cream contains the active ingredient imidazoquinoline, which belong to the class of medication called immune response modifiers. An immune response modifier usually uses body’s immune system to attack and kill certain types of skin growths. This means, imiquimod topical cream uses body’s own defense system to kill skin growths, tumors or cancers. It does this by the release of a number of chemical substances called cytokines, and one among them is interferon. Interferon is a protein that is normally produced as a result of body’s immune response. Imiquimod cream 5 is thought to release more interferon, as result of which it destroys skin cancers, tumors or growths easily.
1. Actinic Keratoses
Imiquimod cream is used to treat pre-cancerous scaly, flat skin growths called actinic keratoses, normally seen on the scalp or face. It treats typical, non-hyperkeratotic, non-hypertrophic actinic keratoses in immune-competent adults. Actinic keratoses are usually skin colored, reddish brown or yellowish black in color and can be of any shape and size. If left untreated, 10 to 15% may develop in to a type of skin cancer. Patients who have impaired immune system cannot use imiquimod for treating actinic keratoses, and should explore other treatment options in consultation with the physician.
2. Genital warts
This cream may also treat genital warts or perianal warts that occur outside the body in patients above 12 years of age. However, when using it in the treatment of genital warts, one should bear in mind that, it does not offer cure for the condition and also does not keep warts from spreading from one person to another. Sexual activity should be avoided, when the medication is applied on to the skin areas.
3. Superficial basal cell carcinoma (Superficail BCC)
Imiquimod topical can also be used in the treatment of superficial BCC on the feet, legs, hands, arms, neck, or trunk. Superficial BCC is a form of skin cancer which when found earlier can be easily treated. In addition, patients receiving imiquimod treatment for superficial BCC, be immuno-competent and should have their cancer confirmed with a biopsy. Also, the use of imiquimod is indicated in cases where surgical methods are not appropriate.
Side effects of Imiquimod cream
Imiquimod 5 cream has the potential for side effects, which include:
a. Skin reactions
Skin reactions are common side effects as a result of its use, because it is directly applied o to the skin areas that are already sensitive and potentially irritated by carcinomas or warts that already exist. Some common skin reactions caused include blisters, rash, scaling, severe redness of the skin, scabs, open sores, or itching. Less common skin reactions include waxy scar like lesions or shiny bumps on the skin.
When using imiquimod on the skin surface, it is common to experience a mild redness, mild flaking, minor pain, swelling in the area of application, tenderness of the skin, and soreness. When these symptoms become uncomfortable, it should be notified to the health care provider immediately.
b. Symptoms of cold
Users will experience symptoms that resembles a cold such as coughing, swollen lymph nodes, pounding in the ears, hoarseness, chest pain, wheezing, tightness of the chest, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, labored breathing, shortness of breath, loss of voice, ear congestion, or difficulty in breathing. All these symptoms should be reported to the health care provider immediately, as it can be serious if not treated.
c. Other side effects
Imiquimod overdose can cause flu like symptoms such as muscle pain, fever, head ache, fatigue or diarrhea. Medical intervention is required immediately if the patient confronts with any of these symptoms after using imiquimod cream. Other bothersome side effects should also be notified to the health care provider immediately.
Serious side effects that should be taken to the notice of heath care provider include temporary blindness, sudden and severe inability to speak, swelling in any other part of the body other than the application site, slurred speech, pain in the shoulders, seizures, pain in the arms, irregular heartbeat, pain in the jaw or neck, extreme fatigue, convulsions, dilated neck veins, blurred vision, or blue finger nails.
Some common side effects include bladder pain, cloudy or bloody urine, pain during urination, frequent need to urinate, joint stiffness, increase in cholesterol levels in the blood, lower back or side pain, or a lump in the abdomen.