If You Suspect Shingles

If you suspect you have shingles, see your healthcare provider within 72 hours of the first sign of the rash.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.

(Watch the video to learn more about shingles treatments. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

Antivirals and Other Treatments

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.

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.

Shingles Vaccine

The shingles vaccine is NOT recommended if you have active shingles or pain that continues after the rash is gone. To learn more about the shingles vaccine, see the chapter on "Prevention."