Question

Shingles Treatment

What medications can help treat shingles?

A Answers (4)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Doctors treat shingles with medications called antiviral drugs. These medications help to control the virus that causes shingles. There are three antiviral drugs available for treating shingles: acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famcyclovir. You can lower your risk for long-term complications of shingles if you begin taking antiviral medications soon after your symptoms start. In addition to antiviral medications, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers and other drugs to help you manage the symptoms of shingles. 
    Helpful? 2 people found this helpful.
  • There is no cure for shingles, but there are treatments that can help. Antiviral medications may be recommended to treat shingles, especially for people with weakened immune systems. These drugs include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir, and they can help speed up the healing process and reduce symptoms. These treatments must be started within three days of the first symptoms, though - otherwise, they're not very effective. Painkillers, both prescription and over-the-counter, may also be used to reduce the pain caused by shingles. Over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs may be used, but if they don't work, prescription narcotics, antidepressants, and numbing creams may be used to reduce the pain caused by shingles.

  • ARobin Miller, MD, Integrative Medicine, answered
    Shingles is a condition that can be incredibly painful.  It is manifested by an outbreak of skin lesions that look kind of like chicken pox.  They occur along the area of a nerve and are generally on one side.  They can appear anywhere on the body even on the face. If a shingles lesion appears on the tip of the nose, it is important to see an eye doctor as it generally signals that the eye may be involved.  This requires special treatment with antiviral drops.


    The outbreak is usually preceded by pain for several days.  It is key that antiviral medication such as Valtrex, Famvir or Acyclovir is started within 72 hours of the appearance of the skin lesions.  These medications may shorten the course and help alleviate the pain. 

    If a shingles patient is experiencing severe pain, often times narcotics may be required.   There is a patch called Lidoderm which actually numbs the area of the shingles that I have found very helpful to patients.  Once the shingles lesions are healed, there is an over the counter cream that is made from cayenne pepper called Zostrix that may help.


    For those over 60 years old the shingles vaccine is recommended and I urge my patients to get it.  It does not necessarily mean that they will never get shingles, but if they do the course may be less severe.
  • AHealthwise answered

    Medicines can help limit the pain and discomfort caused by shingles, shorten the time you have symptoms and prevent the spread of the disease. Medicines also may reduce your chances of developing shingles complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or disseminated zoster.

    Medicine choices

    Medicines to treat shingles when the rash is present (active stage) may include:

    • Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen, to help reduce pain.
    • Antiviral medicines, to reduce the pain and duration of shingles.
    • Topical antibiotics, which are applied directly to the skin, to stop infection of the blisters.

    Medicines to treat postherpetic neuralgia pain may include:

    • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline.
    • Medicines put on the skin (topical medicines), such as creams or skin patches containing capsaicin or lidocaine.
    • Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin or pregabalin.
    • Nerve block injections.
    • Tramadol and other opioids, such as codeine, oxycodone and morphine.

    What to think about

    For some people, nonprescription pain relievers (analgesics) are enough to help control pain caused by shingles or postherpetic neuralgia. But for others, stronger medicines may be needed. And if prescription medicines don't help control your pain, you may need to see a pain specialist about other ways to treat PHN.



    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. To learn more visit Healthwise.org

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