Frequently Asked Questions
21. What treatments are there for shingles?
Treatment with antiviral medications can reduce the severity of the nerve damage and speed healing. But to be effective, they must be started as soon as possible after the rash appears. If you suspect you have shingles, see your healthcare provider within 72 hours of the first sign of the rash.
At the early stage of shingles, a healthcare provider will usually prescribe antiviral pills. These antiviral medicines include acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famcyclovir, Your healthcare provider, may also prescribe drugs to relieve pain. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching.
Patients with long-term pain may also be treated with numbing patches, tricyclic antidepressants, and gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication.
The shingles vaccine is not recommended if you have active shingles or pain that continues after the rash is gone.
While these treatments can reduce the symptoms of shingles, they are not a cure. The antivirals do weaken the virus and its effects, but the outbreak still tends to run its course.
Good hygiene, including daily bathing, can help prevent bacterial infections. It is a good idea to keep fingernails clean and well-trimmed to reduce scratching.