Treating Shingles

Aug 8, 2016

Treating Shingles

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There is no cure for shingles; however, there are many treatment options that could lessen the symptoms, reduce the length of the illness, and prevent further complications from the virus. While dealing with the painful blisters of shingles, it is crucial to resist the urge to itch blisters, for this can cause lifelong scars.

Upon receiving a shingles diagnosis, a doctor will more than likely begin an antiviral treatment. This treatment is most effective if started within the first three days of developing a shingles rash. However, there are also multiple natural remedies that can be done with over-the-counter products in the comfort of home.

Natural Shingles Remedies

  • Take a cool bath: The cool water will help ease the painful shingles blisters. After a bath, be sure to wash any towels used with hot water.
  • Use a cool compress: Do not mistake this for an ice pack—the goal of a cold compress is the same as a cool bath. Soak a towel with cool water and apply gentle pressure on the rash for a few minutes at a time.
  • Soak in an oatmeal bath: A colloidal oatmeal bath can ease the pain of irritated skin, and most treatments are available over-the-counter at the local drugstore. Make sure to soak in warm, not hot, water to avoid further irritation.
  • Apply calamine lotion: An unscented lotion can ease the painful burning of shingles blisters, but make sure to wash hands immediately after application to prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of the body.

Common Shingles Treatment

  • Antiviral medicines to reduce swelling, including:
    • Acyclovir
    • Famciclovir
    • Valacyclovir
  • Over-the-counter pain medicines, including:
    • Acetaminophen
    • Ibuprofen
  • Topical antibiotics to stop infection
  • Corticosteroids (In severe cases)

Ongoing Shingles Treatment

For any pain lasting longer than a month after a shingles rash has healed, Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN) may be diagnosed. This is the most common complication of shingles, causing pain for months, sometimes years, after the shingles rash has ceased. On average, PHN affects approximately 10 to 15 out of 100 people who have had shingles.

Treating Postherpetic Neuralgia (PNH) 

  • Antidepressant medications
  • Topical anesthetics
    • Benzocaine
    • Lidocaine patches
  • Anticonvulsant medicines
    • Gabapentin
    • Pregabalin
  • Codeine
  • Other pain medications
    • Gabapentin Enacarbil

Long-term Complications

In few cases, shingles can cause long-term complications such as disseminated zoster, herpes zoster ophthalmicus, and even nerve complications.

Disseminated Zoster

Some people experience a blistery rash over a large portion of the body know as a disseminated zoster. This rash may affect the heart, lungs, liver, joints, pancreas, and intestinal track if not treated. Treatment for disseminated zoster includes antiviral medicines to prevent the virus from multiplying and administering an antibiotic to stop the spread of infection.

Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus

This complication of shingles causes a rash on the face, particularly around the forehead, cheek, nose, and eye. This rash could be damaging to eyesight, so prompt treatment should be received from an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist may recommend rest, cool compression, and antiviral medicine.

Nerve Complication

In severe cases, the shingles virus can affect the cranial nerves, in addition to posing complications in the face, eyes, and nose. Treatment varies based on the severity and location of the complication.

It’s no secret that the itching and burning from shingles pain is uncomfortable. Just keep in mind that there are a number of remedies to alleviate pain and put you back on track.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is shingles life threatening?

Generally speaking, no, shingles is not life threatening. However, for persons with especially weakened immune systems shingles can cause complications which can then become life threatening. If you have shingles, it is important to speak with your doctor immediately so that they can ensure that your overall health is not in danger.

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Is shingles contagious?

Yes and no. Shingles, itself, cannot be directly transferred from one person to another. However, shingles can be transferred to someone in the form of chickenpox. But, in order for this to happen, the affected person must make direct contact with the active blisters and must have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine in the past.

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