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Drugs that are designed to numb the skin, such as lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine and prilocaine have all been linked to serious and life-threatening side effects when used improperly. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the agency is particularly concerned about the danger posed by the drugs when they were used on women to reduce the discomfort of mammograms.

These drugs are available as creams, ointments and gels, and all work by blocking pain sensation in the skin. When they are applied to the skin surface, they can be absorbed more readily into the blood stream. The FDA warned that when these are used improperly, these skin numbing drugs might cause life-threatening side effects, like irregular hearbeats, seizures, breathing difficulties or even death.

The new warning on skin numbing drugs follows a February 2007 health alert that was prompted by the deaths of two women who were treated with these products to lessen leg pain following a hair removal procedure. During that time, the FDA warned that an excessive amount of the drugs’ active ingredients could pass into the blood stream when the products were applied over a large area of skin, when it stays on the skin for an extended period of time and when the skin is covered with plasic wrap after the application of the product.

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