Clonidine is a medicine for people who suffer from high blood pressure, but it also has applications in treating menopausal symptoms and in helping people stop smoking. It is available as a tablet and as a patch to put on the skin, which is the transdermal form of the drug. Clonidine transdermal patches typically stay on for a week before a new one needs to be applied.
One of the ways clonidine works is to slow the beating of the heart. The drug also relaxes the muscular tension around blood vessels, which opens them up for the blood to move around under less pressure. Both of these actions help to reduce the amount of blood flowing around the body, and therefore lower the pressure of the blood.
High blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension, is not a disease in itself. Instead it is an indication that the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and all the blood vessels around the body, may not be in optimal health. Lowering blood pressure is often an aim of doctors when a patient exhibits hypertension, as this may reduce the risk to the patient of serious cardiovascular disease. Clonidine transdermal patches are one way of delivering the drug to the body.
Transdermal simply means "through the skin," and a clonidine transdermal patch is a piece of sticky material that contains the drug. Patients stick the patch onto their skin for seven days, during which time the drug comes out of the patch, through the skin and into the body. After seven days, the patient replaces the patch. High blood pressure typically requires longterm medication, as it is not curable with drugs, merely controllable.
An advantage of clonidine transdermal over the tablet form of the drug is that the patch delivers a constant dose of the drug. Oral medications generally give the patient one large but single dose. Extended-release tablets may deliver the dose over a prolonged period, but a transdermal patch may be more accurate at releasing doses over time.
Studies on the patch by the manufacturers show that the best places for the patch to release the drug from are on the chest or the top part of the arm. Hairs can prevent it from sticking correctly, so a relatively hairless area is best. Local irritation to the skin under the patch can occur, and other possible side effects include insomnia, headaches and nausea.