Some treatments are taken as tablets. This is called an ‘oral’ route of delivery or ‘by mouth’ and means the medicine gets swallowed into our stomachs and starts being digested before it gets into our blood. Once it’s in our blood it is circulated around our whole body and can affect every organ. This is called a ‘systemic’ treatment and is different to a ‘local’ or ‘topical’ treatment which might use a cream, spray, gel or dressing to put medication only onto one part of the body. 

This video explains how systemic medicines can work inside our bodies:


Some systemic treatments can be ‘targeted’ so that, although they are in our blood, they only act on injured areas. 

Some systemic treatments might be put directly into our blood as an ‘intra-venous (IV) transfusion’. This means they don’t need to pass through our stomach first and can start working more quickly after they are given. If a medicine might be damaged by going into our stomachs or can’t get from our guts into our bloodstream it can’t be taken as tablets and might have to be transfused.