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EMLA cream or lidocaine topical: Which local anesthetic to apply?

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Anesthesia is an important part of modern medicine. It’s hard to grasp how in the past people underwent surgeries without numbing their sensations first. Luckily, in the 21st century, we have a variety of anesthetics available on the market, including topical ones.

When it comes to choosing, which one is better to opt for – EMLA cream or Lidocaine topical? To decide, people need to know how does Lidocaine work, what is onset duration of EMLA, and other peculiarities before buying and applying either one numbing cream or the other.

What is EMLA cream?

EMLA (Eutectic Mixture of Local Anesthetics) consists of 2.5% lidocaine and 2.5% prilocaine. This anesthetic fusion is available for purchase in local drug stores and online.

When to apply it?

EMLA cream is to be used to treat patients with minor skin discomfort and to minimize the possible pain sensations before procedures. The skin in the treatment area should be intact, and there’s no need to apply too much cream to block the nerves from sending the signals.

How long does EMLA cream last?

EMLA 5% cream’s onset action is 1 hour, with its peak results remaining even for about 2-3 hours. The loss of feeling remains for about 1-2 hours after wiping EMLA away.

What is lidocaine cream?

Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that temporarily numbs the skin and blocks pain signals from the nerves in the application area. The drug comes in different dosages – 3% to 10%.

When to apply it?

Lidocaine cream can be applied topically before getting an injection or taking blood tests to minimize possible discomfort. It can also be used as a pain relief treatment to soften the symptoms of sunburn, scrapes, and some skin diseases. However, Lidocaine topical shouldn’t be put on damaged skin.

How long does lidocaine last?

Lidocaine soaks in approximately 30-60 minutes after being applied. Numbness and loss of feeling continue for up to 90 minutes, then the effects of Lidocaine topical begin to fade.

Isn’t lidocaine injection better?

Several comparison studies showed that Lidocaine skin cream is a good alternative to Lidocaine injection. Though injectable anesthetic starts working much faster than the topical one (within a couple of minutes), it, however, lasts not as long as Lidocaine cream (approximately 20-30 minutes).

In addition, Lidocaine injection is much more likely to cause adverse events than the cream. This makes using Lidocaine topical worth consideration.

EMLA vs cream lidocaine

When deciding between EMLA 5% cream and Lidocaine topical, a person must take their similarities and differences into account.

Both these creams contain lidocaine, which makes them effective numbing substances but prohibits their use in people suffering from liver disease and other contraindications.

EMLA may take more time to start acting than Lidocaine cream, but it also tends to sustain its effect for a longer period.

According to comparison studies, there is no significant difference in EMLA’s and Lidocaine topical’s pain-relieving and numbing properties, so the choice is to be made based on the probability of severe side effects in each unique patient.

A minimal amount of each cream must be used to numb the treatment area to avoid overdosing.

Warnings and side effects

Both Lidocaine topical and EMLA cream can cause further adverse reactions:

  • Skin irritation;
  • Itching;
  • Redness;
  • Swelling;
  • Burning;
  • Skin rash;
  • Skin discoloration;
  • Confusion;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Low blood pressure;
  • Fatigue;
  • Dizziness.

A patient must apply the cream only if their doctor finds it necessary. A person mustn’t suffer from such conditions as:

  • An allergic reaction to any of the cream’s components;
  • Seizures;
  • Liver disease;
  • Abnormal heart rate;
  • Methemoglobinemia;
  • Open wounds in the treatment area;
  • Decreased lung function;
  • G6PD deficiency;
  • Sepsis.

These and other contraindications, side effects, and drug interactions are to be discussed with a healthcare provider before applying EMLA, Lidocaine cream, or other topical anesthetics.


EMLA 5% cream and Lidocaine topical cream are equally effective means of pain relief that can cause similar side effects. Patients should seek medical advice and get prescriptions from their healthcare professionals before applying any numbing treatments. Together, a person and their doctor will be able to choose the best anesthetic option based on the unique health needs of an individual.

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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