What Is 'Breakthrough' Pain And What Should I Do About It?

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Question: What Is 'Breakthrough' Pain And What Should I Do About It?

Answer: Breakthrough Pain refers to a patient who has a chronic pain problem, and is generally taking a long-term analgesic to treat pain.

Pain unfortunately is unpredictable -- it can spike and become severe, at times that we have difficulty predicting. When that pain does break through your underlying pain medication, you often times require short-acting medications to help treat the pain while it is so severe.

There are two other types of pain that are similar to Breakthrough Pain, but a little bit different and their treatment is a little bit different. One is incident pain. It may be that certain activities we do during the day are going to lead to more pain, and occasionally we may need to take or prescribe medications for this kind of activity -- and that's taken before you engage in the activity to allow you to do it.

The other type of pain that is somewhat like Breakthrough Pain but a bit different is called end-of-dose failure. For these patients, they're taking an analgesic that sort of runs out after a few hours, and then pain returns. The answer to that is to choose a different agent, choose a higher dose of the same agent, or change the dosing interval, how often the patient takes the drug.

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