Treatment for Shingles

As soon as you are diagnosed with shingles, your doctor probably will start treatment with antiviral medicines. If you begin medicines within the first 2 days of seeing the shingles rash, you have a lower chance of having later problems, such as postherpetic neuralgia.

Early treatment of shingles is important, because the problems that can arise can be serious and resistant to treatment. For example, 40% to 50% of people with postherpetic neuralgia do not respond to treatment. There is no cure for shingles, but the severity and duration of an attack of shingles can be significantly reduced if you are treated immediately with antiviral medicines. These medicines include acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famcyclovir.

The most common treatments for shingles include:

* Antiviral medicines, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir, to reduce the pain and the duration of shingles.

* Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, to help reduce pain during an attack of shingles.

* Corticosteroids, in combination with antiviral medicine, to reduce pain and the duration of shingles.

* Topical antibiotics, applied directly to the skin, to stop infection of the blisters.

Besides local relief measures, medications directed against the virus known as antivirals are used in an attack of shingles. Three antiviral drugs have been shown to be effective for this purpose: acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex).

Currently, acyclovir (Zovirax), which is taken orally, is the antiviral agent most commonly used in treating shingles. Acylovir helps to reduce inflammation and pain during an acute attack. It is also effective in reducing the likelihood of long-term pain after the attack, especially in patients aged 55 and older.

A vaccine is available for chickenpox, but it isn’t routinely used in the UK. However, it is offered to health workers who aren’t immune to chickenpox.


A vaccine that reduces the risk of shingles for people over the age of 60 has also been developed and is used in USA, but it hasn’t yet been approved in the UK.

Pregnant women who have never had chickenpox, people with a weakened immune system or newborn babies who are exposed to the chickenpox or shingles virus can be given an injection of antibodies that may stop chickenpox developing. The sooner this is given after exposure to the virus, the more likely it is to work.

Tips for treatment for shingles

Here are some things that you can do to promote healing of the shingles rash and reduce the pain:

· Apply cool compresses over the zoster lesions or take a cool bath twice a day

· Avoid exposure to warm and hot water because this could lead to further itching

· Cover shingles lesions with a clean cloth or loose-fitting gauze after cleansing

· Trim fingernails to reduce the chance of bacterial infection from scratching

· Avoid wearing tight clothing over the rash because this could irritate the rash

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