What Drugs Are Prescribed For Shingles
- An injection including corticosteroids and local anesthetics
If postherpetic neuralgia develops, similar medications are used to treat PHN pain.
While it may seem strange for your doctor to prescribe drugs for shingles that are commonly used to treat depression and prevent seizures, shingles is at root a nerve disorder, and these drugs work in different ways to calm overactive nerves.
Antiepileptics in general are thought to reduce the ability of the neurons to fire at high frequency, says Sangeetha Kodoth, MD, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy Specialists of Knoxville in Tennessee.
Antibacterial agents may also be prescribed if a bacterial infection occurs with the shingles rash.
Before taking any medication for shingles, be sure to talk to your doctor about possible side effects.
How Long Does Shingles Last
The shingles virus lasts a lifetime. However, it may remain inactive for many years at a time. A shingles attack or episode may last between two and four weeks. Here is an average timeline:
Avoid The Following While You Are Using Acyclovir Buccal Delayed
- Do not chew gum, touch, or press the buccal tablet after it has been applied.
- Do not wear upper dentures.
- Do not brush your teeth until it dissolves. If your teeth need to be cleaned while the tablet is in place, rinse the mouth gently.
Shake the suspension well before each use to mix the medication evenly.
Your symptoms should improve during your treatment with acyclovir. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve or if they get worse.
Take or use acyclovir until you finish the prescription, even if you feel better. If you stop taking acyclovir too soon or skip doses, your infection may not be completely treated or may become more difficult to treat. The delayed-release buccal tablet is applied as a one-time dose.
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What Can I Do For The Pain
To help with the pain of shingles, your doctor might have you take an over-the-counter pain medicine. This could include acetaminophen or ibuprofen .
Applying a medicated anti-itch lotion to the blisters might reduce the pain and itching. Placing cool compresses soaked in water mixed with white vinegar on the blisters and sores might also help.
If shingles causes severe pain, your doctor might prescribe a stronger pain medicine.
How Is Shingles Treated
There is no cure for shingles, but antiviral medicine may relieve the symptoms and help prevent complications. See your doctor for a prescription of antiviral medicines as soon as possible after symptoms develop. Treatment should be started within 3 days of the shingles rash appearing.
If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether antivirals are right for you.
Over-the counter medicines, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can be used for pain relief. If over-the-counter medicines are not controlling your pain, your doctor may prescribe other medicines.
There are several things you can do to help manage the condition. They include the following.
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To Use Buccal Acyclovir Follow These Steps:
If the delayed-release buccal tablet comes off within the first 6 hours of application, reapply the same tablet. If it still will not stick, then apply a new tablet. If you accidentally swallow the tablet within the first 6 hours of application, drink a glass of water and place a new tablet on your gum. If the tablet falls off or is swallowed 6 or more hours after application, do not apply a new tablet until your next regular time.
Who Shouldnt Take Antiviral Medications
Antivirals are relatively safe medicines. Children as young as two weeks, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding individuals, can take certain antiviral medications. Guidelines for who shouldnt take antivirals vary depending on the drug. Your healthcare provider can determine whether an antiviral medicine is safe for you.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Antiviral medications can treat certain viruses, putting an end to symptoms. For people with chronic viral infections, antiviral drugs can stop the virus from multiplying and causing problems. The medicine also lowers your chances of giving the virus to others. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an antiviral as a preventive measure if you have a known viral exposure. Taking antiviral medicines for a long time, or failing to take them as prescribed, can lead to antiviral resistance.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/11/2021.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Ive had chickenpox. Am I at risk of developing shingles?
- What is the best treatment for my shingles?
- The pain from shingles isnt going away. What can I do to make myself more comfortable?
- Im on treatment for shingles. When should I call my doctor if things dont get better?
- I have shingles and my children havent had the chickenpox vaccine. Should I get them vaccinated?
- Is the shingles vaccine right for me?
- Are there any risks associated with the shingles vaccine?
- Will my post-herpetic neuralgia ever go away?
- If Ive never had the chickenpox, should I still get the shingles vaccination?
Articles On Shingles Treatment
The virus that causes chickenpox is also what causes shingles. Itâs called varicella zoster. It can lie quietly in your nerves for decades after causing chickenpox but suddenly wake up and become active.
The main symptom of shingles is a painful rash that comes up on one side of your body or face. See your doctor as soon as you can if you think you might have this condition.
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Valacyclovir For Shingles: How Effective Is It
Shingles, like other herpes viruses, is a lifelong infection and there is no cure. However, treatments like antivirals can decrease both the length and severity of your outbreak. Antivirals are most effective if started as soon as possible and include medications such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir.
What Are Common Side Effects Of Shingles Medication
Gastrointestinal side effects are common across shingles medications. These include nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, and vomiting. Its important to stay hydrated while taking medications that cause these side effects, as dehydration could be more dangerous than the virus itself.
This is not a full list of side effects. Ask a healthcare professional, such as your physician or pharmacist, for more details regarding the possible side effects of your particular medication.
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What Other Information Should I Know
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor may order certain lab tests to check your response to acyclovir.
Do not let anyone else take or use your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
Are There Alternative Treatments
Some studies show that various alternative treatments, from acupuncture to supplements, can offer relief. The research isnât complete, but some shows promise. Check with your doctor before you try any of these:
TENS . This therapy uses tiny electrical pulses to relieve pain. A TENS unit is about the size of a smartphone and comes with small patches called electrodes. You put them over the painful area and turn the unit on and off as your pain comes and goes.
Traditional Chinese medicine: These treatments aim to restore balance in your body. They include acupuncture, the ancient practice of inserting very thin needles into your skin at specific points. Also, moxibustion and cupping, two types of heat therapy, are supposed to draw out toxins. These treatments may be done in combination.
Creams and other skin treatments: A mixture of liquid dimethyl sulfoxide and idoxuridine, an antiviral drug, may reduce swelling and the number of blisters you have when you put it on your rash. And chlorophyll, the chemical that gives plants their green color, is also used directly on the rash as a cream or saline solution.
Supplements: Youâll find a long list of herbs, pills, and oils that claim to relieve shingles. Most have no research to back them up, but there are a couple of exceptions. Papain, a protein found in papayas, is sold in capsules. And manuka and clover honeys can be put directly on your skin. Very early studies on both show they may be helpful.
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How Long Is Shingles Contagious
The varicella-zoster virus is contagious and can be spread from someone who has chickenpox or shingles. Although shingles is a lifelong disease, it is only contagious for some time during each episode. Shingles is contagious from the time your symptoms appear until the time that your blisters have dried or crusted, which usually happens within seven to 10 days of symptoms appearing. As long as the blistered area is covered and hands are clean the spread is contained.
Acyclovir May Cause Side Effects Tell Your Doctor If Any Of These Symptoms Are Severe Or Do Not Go Away:
- numbness, burning, or tingling in the arms or legs
- temporary inability to move parts of your body
- shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control
- loss of consciousness
Acyclovir may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking or using this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online or by phone .
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Can Shingles Be Prevented
There are 2 vaccines available to reduce the likelihood of developing shingles, Zostavax and Shingrix. If you are over 50, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 60 and is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70 to 79.
Vaccination will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. The vaccine used to protect against shingles is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.
Before Taking This Medicine
You should not take this medicine if you are allergic to acyclovir or valacyclovir . You should not take acyclovir buccal tablets if you are allergic to milk proteins.
To make sure this medicine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
kidney disease or
a weak immune system .
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Herpes can be passed to your baby during childbirth if you have a genital lesion when your baby is born. If you have genital herpes, it is very important to prevent herpes lesions during pregnancy. Take your medicine as directed to best control your infection.
It may not be safe to breastfeed while using this medicine. Ask your doctor about any risk.
Acyclovir should not be given to a child younger than 2 years old.
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Treatment Of Herpes Zoster
The treatment of herpes zoster has three major objectives: treatment of the acute viral infection, treatment of the acute pain associated with herpes zoster and prevention of postherpetic neuralgia. Antiviral agents, oral corticosteroids and adjunctive individualized pain-management modalities are used to achieve these objectives.
What If You Have Shingles Around Or In Your Eye
Community Eye Health
On the surface, says Dr. Taylor, they mainly show up on the cornea, which is the clear dome of tissue that covers your iris , and the conjunctiva the clear tissue that covers the whites of your eye and the inside of your eyelid.
If shingles is in these places, she says, youll be prescribed eye drops with steroids to calm the lesions, and lubricating tears for comfort.
If you have had shingles in your eye, says Taylor, your eye doctor will monitor you for 3 to 12 months to make sure that your eye is returning to health and that no new developments have occurred. You may also be encouraged to have a yearly eye exam until otherwise instructed by your eye doctor.
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When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. Starting treatment with antiviral medicines within 3 days of the rash appearing should reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of further complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following:
- symptoms that affect your eye area
- a temperature of 38°C or higher
You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medicine that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.
What Brings On An Attack Of Shingles
Its difficult to predict when a shingles episode might happen again. However, there are some risk factors you should consider.
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Acute on chronic stress
The first risk factor is age. If you are above the age of 50, ask your doctor about the shingles vaccine. In addition to being an effective shingles treatment, this vaccine is used to prevent shingles.
The second risk factor of shingles is immunity. If your immune system is weakened by illness or medication, you are at risk for contracting shingles or experiencing another shingles episode. Fortunately, you can naturally strengthen your immune system with the right diet and vitamins.
Citrus fruits, green vegetables, organic meat, eggs, whole grains, and dairy products are all part of a healthy diet. You should avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and arginine-rich foods, like nuts and seeds.
Additionally, take a multivitamin that includes vitamin A, B-12, C, and E. The amino acid lysine is also protective against infection. Many people over the age of 60 are deficient in zinc, selenium, and vitamin D. You may need to incorporate these supplements into your daily routine as well. Ask your healthcare provider for recommendations as to which vitamins and supplements you need.
How Long Do You Need To Take Antiviral Drugs
Treatment length varies depending on the antiviral drug and viral infection. You may need one dose of an IV drug or a week of oral medicine.
People who have chronic ailments like HIV may take daily antivirals for life. This drug regimen keeps the virus from becoming active. It can prevent the virus from infecting others.
How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or urgent care facility if you experience any symptoms of shingles . You may require immediate medical attention if shingles develops in the eye, if it is widespread across the body, if youre 60 years old or older, or if you have a weakened immune system from another chronic illness. Consider contacting an ophthalmologist for urgent care as you may be able to get an appointment sooner.
Your primary care provider can diagnose shingles. However, if symptoms appear in the eye, then you might need to see an ophthalmologist.
Shingles can usually be diagnosed with a simple physical exam, as symptoms are usually distinctive. However, if your symptoms are atypical, your doctor may send a tissue scraping or culture from the blisters to the lab for testing. Blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or saliva tests may be necessary if you have nerve pain without a skin rash.
Your healthcare provider may also ask the following questions to help confirm the diagnosis:
- Have you had chickenpox before?
- Are you over the age of 60?
- Have you had the shingles vaccine?
- Are you stressed?
- Do you have a chronic illness or are you taking medications that could weaken your immune system?
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