Shingles medicine helps reduce the symptoms of the condition, which include a painful rash. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chicken pox. If you had chicken pox, the virus remains in your body, in the nerve tissue around your spinal cord and brain, but it is inactive. No one knows why, but sometimes the virus reactivates and causes shingles, usually many years later.
Shingles can be extremely painful. In fact, pain is usually the first symptom of the condition. Later, an itchy red rash usually develops, although some people just experience pain and never get a rash. Fluid-filled blisters may develop. Some people also run a fever and experience fatigue. In some cases, pain continues long after the rash goes away, a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia. The pain can be very severe and debilitating.
There is no cure for shingles. However, there are medications that can reduce the severity of symptoms and speed the healing process. These include prescription antiviral drugs like acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). A shingles outbreak typically lasts for two to six weeks, but a shingles medicine can shorten the outbreak. These medications can have serious side effects, however, including headaches, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, kidney problems and hallucinations. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any medications and be sure to let your doctor know about any health problems you have or other medications you take.
There are also medications that provide pain relief, including anticonvulsants like gabapentin (used to treat painful conditions like fibromyalgia and nerve pain as well as seizures), tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (used to treat things like chronic pain and migraines as well as depression), narcotic pain medications like codeine and vicodin, corticosteroids (taken orally or injected), and numbing agents applied to the affected area. While these medications can help, they also carry the risk of side effects. For instance, gabapentin can cause dizziness, drowsiness and blurred vision and amitriptline can cause twitchy muscles, sleepiness, nightmares and hallucinations. Narcotic pain medications can be addictive and are generally not recommended for people with a history of substance abuse.
Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used, although those may not be strong enough to provide much relief. They are meant to treat minor pain and shingles can be very painful.
Some people prefer natural shingles remedies because they are concerned about the possible side effects of prescription drugs. The Mayo Clinic suggests that taking a cool bath or applying cold, wet compresses to the affected area may provide some relief. Adding colloidal oatmeal (finely ground oatmeal) to a bath can help.
Essential oils may provide some relief, including tea tree oil and peppermint oil (added to a carrier oil such as coconut oil, because essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin). Some people believe chiropractic adjustments help speed the healing process, since the virus that causes shingles lies close to the spine. Others find acupuncture helpful.
What about the shingles vaccine? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people age 60 and over get vaccinated for shingles. It reduces the risk of getting shingles by 51 percent. The vaccine also reduces the risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia if you do get shingles.
You can get the vaccine at your doctor’s office or at many drugstores. While the vaccine prevents shingles, it doesn’t treat shingles or make it go away if you’ve already got shingles. You can get the vaccine even if you’ve had shingles before, though, to help prevent future outbreaks. It is possible to get shingles more than once.
The shingles vaccine is considered safe for most people but there are some instances in which you should not get the vaccine. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether the shingles vaccine is right for you.
Our preferred remedy for shingles is a homeopathic shingles medicine called Naturasil. It contains a homeopathic remedy called natrum muriaticum, which is made from sodium chloride (salt). Naturasil also contains plant oils that help soothe the pain and itching of shingles. Because it’s made from all natural ingredients, it usually doesn’t cause any side effects. Talk to your doctor or consult a health care professional who is knowledgeable about alternative medicine and homeopathy if you have questions about whether a homeopathic remedy is right for you. Follow the links to learn more about our preferred remedy for shingles.