Understanding the Various Treatments for Shingles
Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox—varicella zoster virus or VZV. Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for the virus. Catching the virus for the first time will give youchickenpox.
The virus stays in your nervous system forever, although it usually remainsinactive. Due tofactors such as a weakened immune system, old age, and stress, the virus may reactivate after being dormant for years and will come back as shingles.
Although there is yet no known cure for shingles, there are available drugs or natural remedies that may help alleviate the pain and the discomfort the viral infection brings. Vaccination, antiviral and other medications can stop the spread of the virus and can reduce its severity.
Immediate and proper treatment must be administered to hasten your recovery process if you are inflected with shingles, and also to avoid further complications.
Just like any other diseases or illness, early detection and treatment is important to prevent the infection from getting worse. Based on record, most individuals infected with shingleswho receive immediate treatment right after the appearance of blisters, experience relief from the common discomfort and pain of shingles rash.
Their symptoms also disappear in a shorter period of time as compared to when the treatment and medication are not immediately given. No scars may develop as well from blisters and rashes.
Medical treatment for shingles
To stop the spread of the infection and speed up the recovery process when you are infected with the shingles virus, your doctor will prescribe antiviral medicines such as:
- Acyclovir or Zovirax
- Valacyclovir or Valtrex
- Famciclovir or Famvir
To be more effective, doctors recommend that the antiviral drugs listed above be taken as soon as the symptoms of shingles appear, especially the rash.
The antiviral drugs shown above also help in the prevention of post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN. PHN is a painful situation that strikes when the damaged nerves in your body send painful messages or sensations from the skin to the brain. When this occurs, you experience extreme pain and discomfort.
The pain is usually felt in areas where the rash appears. This condition may last for a few months, so proper medication may help reduce the pain and accelerate the healing process.
Proper medication may include the use of steroids, anticonvulsants such as pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin), antidepressants, and other topical solutions. All of these may be used in the treatment of PHN.
In order to control the pain caused by the shingles virus, the following may be prescribed by your doctor:
- Antidepressants, specifically tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline or Elavil
- Topical anesthetics may also be used to alleviate the pain. This may come in a gel format, spray, or cream
Home treatment for the shingles virus
Taking a cool shower is recommended as it is known to reduce the burning and tingling sensation you may feel. This bath can include colloidal oatmeal, calamine lotion or cream, petroleum jelly, cold compresses, and the like.
Below are other home remedies for shingles, including over-the-counter, or OTC medicines, to treat this viral infection.
- Capsaicin or known as menthol solutions or cream
- Antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine); these are known to remove the itchiness that the patient feels
- Hydrocortisone solutions
- Non-steroidal or anti-inflammatory medicines may also be prescribed by your doctor
Individuals infected with shingles should avoid going out in the direct sun. Patients are also advised to not scratch the rashes, or do it gently if needed.
Vaccination for shingles infection
As mentioned earlier, there is no permanent cure for the shingles virus. However, getting the vaccination for shingles lowers the risks of catching shingles, and also the complications.
Individuals with shingles, who are above 60 years old, are advised to get the shingles vaccine. On the other hand, some doctors still recommend taking the Zostavax vaccination for those 50 years old and up.
Impact of the shingles vaccination
Researchers believe that giving adults 50 years old and older the shingles virus vaccine reduces the risk of developing shingles. The impact and complications of shingles are expected to be reduced as well when a person receives the shingles vaccine.
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