What medications can help treat shingles?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
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. 

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.

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
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.

Continue Learning about Shingles Treatment

Shingles Treatment

Shingles Treatment

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a nerve inflammation caused by a reawakened chickenpox virus. (Once you've had chickenpox, the virus lurks, dormant, in your body). Treatment of the painful rash or blisters caused by shingl...

es can include cold compresses, over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or doctor-prescribed antiviral and steroidal medications. Experts recommend seeking treatment for shingles as soon as possible; it’s best to receive medication within the three days of the first shingles rash.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.