Types of Transdermal Patches

Updated July 18, 2017

Transdermal patches are used to treat many different conditions due to their unique delivery of medication through the skin's surface. They are used to treat everything from smoking addiction to hormone imbalances. Doctors prefer the transdermal route for some medications to prevent the gastrointestinal symptoms caused by certain drugs. Direct delivery of the medication into the bloodstream also makes transdermal patches a popular choice for patients. There are many types of transdermal patches available.

Scopolamine Patch

According to, scopolamine was the first FDA-approved medication to be used as a transdermal patch in 1979. Scopolamine prevents motion sickness by interfering with the chemical signals in the brain that trigger vomiting and nausea. Scopolamine can cause blurry vision and pupil dilation if it comes into contact with your eyes, so wash your hands thoroughly after pressing it onto the skin behind your ear. Be aware that elderly people sometimes have a negative reaction to scopolamine, such as increased agitation and drowsiness.

Fentanyl Patch

Fentanyl is a potent, opoid-based narcotic used for severe chronic pain. reports that it works by altering chemicals in the brain's pain control centre. Fentanyl patches are time-release and work best when placed on the upper torso. Do not take other pain medications when using a fentanyl transdermal patch unless your doctor tells you to. The Food and Drug Administration has issued several warnings about fentanyl patches due to various reported deaths and complaints of serious adverse reactions. Always administer fentanyl patches exactly as prescribed by your doctor, and immediately report any unusual reactions such as hallucinations and difficulty breathing. As with other opiate medications, fentanyl can cause physical dependence in some people.

Nicotine Patch

Nicotine transdermal patches are marketed under several different brand names, and have helped many people quit smoking. Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in smoking products, and nicotine patches work by delivering a small, controlled amount of nicotine into the bloodstream on a time-release schedule. Use nicotine patches as part of a smoking cessation program under the direction of your doctor. Do not use tobacco products while wearing a nicotine patch, because it can cause toxic levels of nicotine in your blood. Always consult your doctor before using nicotine transdermal patches.

Hormonal Patches

The estradiol transdermal patch is an oestrogen replacement patch used for women with symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness. It is also sometimes prescribed as osteoporosis prevention therapy for women experiencing menopause or post-menopause. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, oestrogen patches carry a serious warning for increased risk of endometrial cancer, stroke, heart attack, breast cancer and dementia. The birth control transdermal patch uses female hormones to prevent ovulation. Because the birth control patch contains oestrogen and progestin hormones, it also carries the same risks as the oestrogen patch. Always use the lowest dose of hormones needed to prevent unwanted side effects.

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About the Author

Roseanne Omalacy became a published author and freelance writer in 2006. She is the author of several novels and has been published with Literary Partners Group, Alyson Publishing and "Scarlet Magazine." She is a Pittsburgh health and relationships columnist, holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from Pennsylvania State University and has over 15 years of nursing experience.