While there’s no cure for shingles, getting immediate treatment can help speed the healing process and reduce your risk of complications.
Most people who receive treatment soon after shingles blisters appear will experience relief from pain and also heal from the lesions within 3 to 5 weeks. Additionally, the blisters often leave no scars.
Medications for Shingles
To help shorten the length and severity of shingles, your physician may prescribe an antiviral drug, such as the following.
• Acyclovir (Zovirax)
• Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
• Famciclovir (Famvir)
In order to be effective, you should take antiviral drugs as soon as the shingles rash appears.
These drugs may also help prevent postherpetic neuralgia (PHN),a condition that occurs when damaged nerve fibers send confused and exaggerated messages of pain from your skin to your brain. When this happens, people have severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash for up to a few months after the blisters have gone away.
Steroids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants including pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin), and topical agents are also used to treat PHN.
To manage the pain caused by shingles, your doctor may prescribe one of the following:
• Anticonvulsants, such as Neurontin
• Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil)
• Local anesthetic agents, such as lidocaine, that come in the form of a cream, gel, spray, or skin patch
• Medications that contain narcotics, such as codeine
Home Remedies for Shingles
Taking cool baths with colloidal oatmeal, or applying calamine lotion or cool, wet compresses to shingles blisters, may help relieve the itching and pain.
How to Prevent Shingles
Getting vaccinated is the only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and lessen its effects, such as PHN, before you get shingles.
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a VZV vaccine (Zostavax) for use in people 50 years and older. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people aged 60 years and older get one dose of shingles vaccine.
Still, some doctors may find the Zostavax vaccine suitable for certain people ages 50 to 59. Ask your healthcare provider if the vaccine is a good option for you.
Outcomes of Vaccine
Researchers found that giving older adults the VZV vaccine cut the expected number of later cases of shingles in half.
Additionally, the severity and complications of shingles were dramatically reduced in people who still got shingles despite being immunized.