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Once a person is diagnosed with shingles, several treatment options are available. There is no cure, but medications and lifestyle changes can help minimize symptoms and speed healing. For example, treatment for shingles often includes the use of antiviral medicines. Pain relievers can be used to treat complications like postherpetic neuralgia. Lifestyle changes that can be helpful include practicing good hygiene and using cold compresses.

An Overview of Shingles Treatment

For a person diagnosed with shingles (also known as herpes zoster), several treatment options are available. The treatment for shingles your healthcare provider recommends will be based on a number of factors, including the severity of shingles symptoms, when they started, and whether complications occur.
Treatment options may include:
  • Antiviral medicines and pain relievers
  • Other medicines to treat complications such as postherpetic neuralgia.
Treatment for shingles may also involve some temporary changes in your lifestyle.

Treating Shingles With Antivirals and Pain Relievers

While there is no cure for shingles, antiviral medicines are the most commonly prescribed drugs for shingles treatment.
Examples of antiviral medicines used to treat this condition include:
When given within 72 hours of the first symptoms, the severity and duration of a shingles attack can be reduced. For example, these medications have been shown to shorten the length of new lesion formation. They have also been shown to shorten the times to full crusting, complete healing, and complete relief of shingles pain.
In one study looking at valacyclovir for shingles, people who were treated with this had their blisters stop forming one day sooner than those who did not take it (two days versus three days). In a study with famciclovir, the average time to full crusting was five days compared to seven days in those people who did not take it.
These shingles medicines may affect the chances of developing shingles complications (such as postherpetic neuralgia). They may also help with the severity and duration of complications. For example, compared to people who did not take any medicine, famciclovir decreased the average time for postherpetic neuralgia symptoms from 119 days to 63 days.
Other medications that may be recommended in the treatment of shingles include pain relievers and anti-inflammatory corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Corticosteroids are routinely used when the eye or other facial nerves are affected.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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