The varicella-zoster virus causes shingles, and doctors treat the condition using prescription antiviral medications. They also may prescribe medication to help reduce a patient's pain. Antiviral medications help reduce the chance of complications from shingles and speed the patient's healing, according to Mayo Clinic.
The varicella-zoster virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox, according to MedlinePlus. Once a person has chickenpox, the virus remains dormant and may reappear as shingles, but the condition is most common in people over age 50. There is no cure for shingles as of 2015, but medication helps reduce the length of the episode and the pain that the patient suffers.
While it is not possible to contract shingles from someone else, the varicella-zoster virus spreads to individuals who have never had chickenpox through direct contact. If the individual is infected, he develops chickenpox and not shingles, as MedlinePlus explains.
The early signs of shingles include shooting pain, burning and itching. As the disease continues, MedlinePlus indicates that patients develop blisters that appear one to 14 days later. The pain from shingles often continues long after the blisters heal.
Vaccines are available to prevent or reduce the effects of shingles. Doctors sometimes give it to patients between ages 50 and 59, but they recommend it for patients age 60 and over, according to MedlinePlus.