Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

imiquimod topical

Pronunciation: i MI kwi mod TOP ik al

Brand: Aldara, Zyclara, Zyclara Pump

What is the most important information I should know about imiquimod topical?

Follow all directions on your medicine label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.

What is imiquimod topical?

Imiquimod topical (for the skin) is used to treat actinic keratosis (a condition caused by too much sun exposure) on the face and scalp.

Imiquimod topical also treats genital warts on the outside of the body, in adults and children at least 12 years old. This medicine is not a cure for genital warts.

Imiquimod topical is also used to treat a minor form of skin cancer called superficial basal cell carcinoma, when surgery would not be an appropriate treatment.

Imiquimod topical may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before using imiquimod topical?

Do not use this medicine for genital warts on a child younger than 12 years old. All other uses of this medication are for adults over 18 only.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • a weak immune system or autoimmune disorder;
  • a sunburn or other skin problems; or
  • graft-versus-host disease.

If you are treating the genital or rectal area, avoid sexual activity while the medicine is on your skin. Imiquimod topical can weaken rubber condoms or diaphragms, which could break during sex and result in an unplanned pregnancy.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How should I use imiquimod topical?

Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed.

Do not take by mouth. Topical medicine is for use only on the skin.

Using too much imiquimod topical or using it for too long can increase your risk of severe skin reactions. Do not use two different forms of imiquimod topical on the same treatment area.

Read and carefully follow any Instructions for Use provided with your medicine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you do not understand these instructions.

Wash your hands before and after applying imiquimod. Also wash the skin to be treated and allow it to dry for at least 10 minutes before applying the medicine.

Apply the cream in a thin layer and rub in completely. Use at bedtime and leave the medicine on for 8 hours. In the morning, wash the skin with water and a mild soap. Do not cover treated skin with any type of plastic bandaging (you may use cotton gauze). Wear only cotton underwear when treating genital warts.

How often and how long you use imiquimod topical will depend on the condition you are treating.

Actinic keratosis:

  • Aldara is usually applied 2 times per week for 16 weeks.
  • Zyclara is usually applied once daily for 2 weeks, followed by 2 weeks without treatment.

Genital warts:

  • Aldara is usually applied 3 times per week for 16 weeks.
  • Zyclara is usually applied once daily for up to 8 weeks.

Superficial basal cell carcinoma:

  • Aldara is usually applied 5 times per week for 6 weeks. Apply the cream to the treatment area and surrounding skin, and rub in completely.

Use this medicine for the full prescribed length of time, even if your symptoms quickly improve.

Imiquimod topical is not a cure for genital warts. You may still spread this condition to others through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You also may develop new lesions during treatment with imiquimod topical.

Call your doctor if the condition you are treating with imiquimod does not improve, or if it gets worse.

Your doctor may tell you to stop using imiquimod topical for several days if you have a skin reaction to this medicine. Even if you have skipped some of your doses, do not add time to the total number of weeks you use imiquimod topical (2 weeks for actinic keratitis, 8 weeks for genital warts).

Your doctor will need to check your skin on a regular basis. If you have superficial basal cell carcinoma, you may need a skin biopsy after you have completed your 5-week treatment with imiquimod topical.

Store at room temperature. Do not freeze. Store the pump in an upright position. Keep each packet unopened until you are ready to use it.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Skip the missed dose and use your next dose at the regular time. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Overdose symptoms may include severe skin irritation, feeling light-headed, or fainting.

What should I avoid while using imiquimod topical?

Avoid swimming or taking a bath or shower while the medicine is on your skin.

Avoid using imiquimod on open wounds or on skin that has not yet healed from surgery or other medical treatment.

Avoid getting this medicine in your eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum. If contact does occur, rinse with water.

Avoid exposure to sunlight or tanning beds. Imiquimod topical can make you sunburn more easily. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when you are outdoors.

Imiquimod will not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including genital warts, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Talk with your doctor about safer sex practices.

Do not use imiquimod to treat any condition that has not been checked by your doctor. Do not share this medicine with another person, even if they have the same symptoms you have.

What are the possible side effects of imiquimod topical?

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Wash off the medicine and call your doctor at once if you have a serious skin reaction such as severe itching, burning, oozing, bleeding, or skin changes where the medicine was applied.

When treating genital warts around the vagina, if you have severe swelling or urination problems, stop using imiquimod topical and call your doctor right away.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, tiredness, body aches, or swollen glands;
  • bleeding or swelling where you applied this medicine; or
  • symptoms of herpes zoster (shingles) --skin sores or blisters, itching, tingling, burning pain, rash on your face or torso.

Common side effects may include:

  • minor skin pain, irritation, itching, redness, dryness, flaking, scabbing, crusting, scaling, or swelling where the medicine was applied;
  • changes in the color of treated skin (may be permanent);
  • headache;
  • tiredness; or
  • nausea.

What other drugs will affect imiquimod topical?

Medicine used on the skin is not likely to be affected by other drugs you use. But many drugs can interact with each other. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all medicines you use, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about imiquimod topical.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2019 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 8.01. Revision date: 5/29/2019.

Your use of the content provided in this service indicates that you have read, understood and agree to the End-User License Agreement, which can be accessed by End-User License Agreement, which can be accessed by clicking on this link.

News & Events

View All

Exercising to Improve Symptoms of Endometriosis

We all know that exercise is one of the most beneficial ways to relieve stress, even though we sometimes don’t