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Effective Treatments for Shingles

March 27, 2024
Piction Health

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash on the skin. The condition is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. After recovery from chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in the body's nerve tissues and can be reactivated later in life to produce shingles.

Understanding Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection that affects millions of people worldwide. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body, and can reactivate later in life as shingles.

What are Shingles?

Shingles manifests as a painful rash, usually on one side of the body, that may also cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue. The rash usually appears in a band or strip of blisters, typically found on the torso, although it can appear on other parts of the body, including the face and eyes.

Shingles is a painful and uncomfortable condition that can cause a great deal of distress to those who suffer from it. The rash can be itchy and painful, and the flu-like symptoms can leave a person feeling weak and tired.

Causes of Shingles

The virus that causes shingles is highly contagious and can be passed from person to person through direct contact with the rash or blisters. A person who has never had chickenpox can develop chickenpox if they come in contact with someone with shingles. The risk of developing shingles increases with age and with conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and chemotherapy.

It is important to note that shingles is not caused by stress, although stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of shingles can be quite severe and debilitating, particularly in older adults. The rash can be painful and itchy, and the flu-like symptoms can make a person feel weak and tired. In some cases, shingles can also cause nerve pain, which can be long-lasting and difficult to treat.

The diagnosis of shingles is based on the appearance of the rash and a medical history that confirms exposure to the varicella-zoster virus. A doctor may also perform a blood test or take a sample of the rash for testing.

If you suspect that you may have shingles, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can help to prevent complications and reduce the severity of symptoms.


Treatment for shingles usually involves antiviral medication, which can help to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Pain medication may also be prescribed to help manage the discomfort associated with the rash and nerve pain.

In addition to medication, there are several home remedies that may help to relieve the symptoms of shingles. These include applying cool compresses to the rash, taking oatmeal baths, and using calamine lotion to soothe the skin.

It is important to rest and take care of yourself while you recover from shingles. Avoid scratching the rash, as this can lead to infection. Drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy diet to support your immune system.

If you are experiencing severe symptoms or complications from shingles, your doctor may recommend hospitalization or referral to a specialist.

Conventional Medical Treatments

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. The virus remains dormant in the nervous system after a person has had chickenpox and can reactivate later in life, causing shingles. Several conventional medical treatments are available for shingles, ranging from antiviral medications and pain relievers to corticosteroids and topical treatments.

Antiviral Medications

Antiviral drugs are the mainstay of treatment for shingles and work by stopping the virus from replicating. These medications include acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and famciclovir (Famvir). Antiviral drugs are most effective when started within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash and can shorten the duration of the pain and rash.

It is important to note that while antiviral medications can help to reduce the severity and duration of shingles, they do not cure the infection.

Pain Relievers

The pain associated with shingles can be severe, and medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can be effective in reducing pain and inflammation. In some cases, a prescription-strength pain reliever, such as codeine or morphine, may be needed.

It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about the appropriate pain relief options for your individual situation, as some pain relievers may interact with other medications or medical conditions.


Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, can be effective in reducing inflammation and easing the pain associated with shingles. However, corticosteroids are usually used in combination with antiviral medications and should only be used under close medical supervision due to potential side effects.

Side effects of corticosteroids may include increased blood sugar levels, weight gain, and an increased risk of infection.

Topical Treatments

A variety of topical treatments, such as creams and gels, can be applied directly to the rash to help reduce pain and itching and promote healing. These treatments may include lidocaine, capsaicin, and calamine lotion.

It is important to follow the instructions provided with these topical treatments carefully, as they may have different application instructions and potential side effects.

Overall, conventional medical treatments for shingles can be effective in reducing the severity and duration of the infection. However, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment options for your individual situation, as some treatments may not be appropriate for everyone.

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

In addition to conventional medical treatments, alternative and complementary therapies can be effective in treating shingles. These therapies include home remedies, herbal supplements, acupuncture and massage, and mind-body techniques.

Home Remedies

Home remedies, such as cool compresses and oatmeal baths, can help soothe painful shingles blisters and reduce inflammation. Other remedies, such as honey and aloe vera, may have antiviral and antibacterial properties and can help speed up healing.

Herbal Supplements

Several herbal supplements, such as lysine and St. John's wort, have been used to treat shingles. Lysine is an amino acid that can help reduce the severity and duration of shingles symptoms, while St. John's wort has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Acupuncture and Massage

Acupuncture and massage can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with shingles and promote relaxation and stress reduction. These therapies should only be performed by a licensed practitioner.

Mind-Body Techniques

Mind-body techniques, such as meditation and yoga, can help reduce stress and promote healing in people with shingles. These techniques can also help improve physical and emotional well-being and reduce the risk of future shingles outbreaks.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

The best way to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated against the varicella-zoster virus. The shingles vaccine, called Zostavax or Shingrix, is recommended for adults aged 50 and older and can reduce the risk of shingles by up to 90 percent. Additional strategies for reducing the risk of shingles include maintaining a healthy immune system through proper nutrition and exercise, and managing stress through relaxation techniques and mindfulness practices.

Shingles Vaccine

The shingles vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent shingles and reduce the risk of complications associated with the disease. The vaccine is recommended for all adults aged 50 and older, including those who have had shingles in the past.

Boosting Immune System

Maintaining a healthy immune system is important for preventing shingles and other diseases. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are all important for promoting a healthy immune system.

Managing Stress

Stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of shingles. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, and engaging in stress-reducing activities, such as yoga and tai chi, can help reduce the risk of shingles and promote overall health and well-being.


Shingles can be a painful and debilitating condition, particularly in older adults. However, several effective treatments are available, ranging from conventional medical therapies to alternative and complementary treatments. Preventing shingles through vaccination, maintaining a healthy immune system, and managing stress can also help reduce the risk of developing this painful condition.