How Can Shingles Be Treated?

How Can Shingles Be Treated?

Treatments for shingles include antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, and treatments for pain, such as capsaicin cream and narcotic pain medications. At home, patients can take a cool bath or apply cool compresses to ease itching. Attempting to minimize stress also helps to ameliorate discomfort, as stated by Mayo Clinic.

Shingles does not have a cure, as of 2015, but the prescription antiviral drugs famciclovir (Famvir), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and acyclovir (Zovirax) accelerate healing and cut the danger of complications before the virus runs its course, according to Mayo Clinic.

Shingles can cause extreme pain and discomfort, and doctors often prescribe medications to ease a patient's discomfort. Other treatments include the anticonvulsant gabapentin (Neurontin) and the numbing agent lidocaine, which is delivered through a skin patch, spray, gel or cream. Sufferers of shingles may receive narcotic pain medications, such as codeine, injections with corticosteroids and local anesthetics. Shingles usually lasts between two and six weeks, but the majority of people only develop it one time. Multiple outbreaks are possible, but they are rare, notes Mayo Clinic.

A complication called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, may occur after the shingles rash heals, which, in some patients, can cause pain for many years. Treatments include topical anesthetics such as lidocaine or benzocaine, antidepressants, anticonvulsant medicines including gabapentin or pregabalin and opioids such as codeine. Topical creams that include capsaicin may also be prescribed for pain relief. In most cases, PHN can be alleviated within a year.

Another complication, a rash with blisters called disseminated zoster, can affect the internal organs. It is treated with various antiviral and antibiotic medicines. Herpes zoster ophthalmicus, a sight-threatening complication which manifests as a rash on the face, is treated with cold compresses, antivirals and rest.

Two vaccines exist that may prevent shingles from occurring: varicella and varicella-zoster. The varicella vaccine (Varivax) is commonly used for chickenpox. The varicella-zoster vaccine (Zostavax) contains the live shingles virus and is approved for adults over the age of 50 by the Food and Drug Administration, states Mayo Clinic.