Infections

Shingles

(Herpes zoster)

About Shingles

Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus - the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. It may not cause problems for many years. As you get older, the virus may reappear as shingles. Although it is most common in people over age 50, anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk.

You can't catch shingles from someone who has it. However, if you have a shingles rash, you can pass the virus to someone who has never had chickenpox. This would usually be a child, who could get chickenpox instead of shingles. The virus spreads through direct contact with the rash, and cannot spread through the air.

Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face. The pain can be mild to severe. Rashes or blisters appear anywhere from one to 14 days later. If shingles appears on your face, it may affect your vision or hearing. The pain of shingles may last for weeks, months, or even years after the blisters have healed.

There is no cure for shingles. Early treatment with medicines that fight the virus may help. These medicines may also help prevent lingering pain.

A vaccine may prevent shingles or lessen its effects. The vaccine is recommended for people 60 or over. In some cases doctors may give it to people ages 50 to 59.

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Symptoms of Shingles
  • Burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching usually on once side of the body or face
  • Rash or blisters

Top Medications for Shingles according to our users

Button Group. All currently active

All Medications for Shingles

Antiviral

  • Valtrex
    (Valacyclovir)
    Prescription only

    Valtrex (Valacyclovir) is good for treating viral infections like herpes, chickenpox, and shingles. It won't cure the disease, but it'll shorten the length of a breakout.

    Was it worth it?
    • Available dosage forms:
    • Pill
  • Zovirax
    (Acyclovir)
    Prescription only

    Zovirax (Acyclovir) is good for treating viral infections like herpes, chickenpox, and shingles. It won't cure the disease, but it'll shorten the length of a breakout.

    Was it worth it?
    • Available dosage forms:
    • Pill
    • Oral suspension
    • Dissolving tablet extended release
    • Cream, gel, or ointment
  • Pain reliever > GABA analog

    • Horizant
      (Gabapentin enacarbil)
      Prescription only

      Horizant (Gabapentin Enacarbil) is a good way to treat pain since it can be used with other pain medications and it's not addictive. You'll need to stop drinking alcohol and it can be somewhat expensive.

      Was it worth it?
      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill

Local anesthetic

  • Lidocaine
    Prescription only

    Lidoderm (Lidocaine) patches work well by releasing a local anesthetic into the skin and relieving pain by targeting damaged nerves.

    Was it worth it?
    • Available dosage forms:
    • Cream, gel, or ointment
    • Jelly
    • Spray
    • Topical solution
    • Patch
  • Anticonvulsant > GABA analog

    • Lyrica
      (Pregabalin)
      Prescription only

      Lyrica (Pregabalin) works well as an add-on medicine for seizures and fibromyalgia, but it's especially effective for nerve-related pain after shingles. Not available as a generic, so it might be expensive.

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Liquid
    • Neurontin
      (Gabapentin)
      Prescription only

      Neurontin (Gabapentin) is an old seizure disorder medicine that's now used to treat nerve-related pain caused by different conditions.

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Oral solution
  • Antidepressant > Tricyclic antidepressant (TCA)

    • Elavil
      (Amitriptyline)
      Prescription only

      Elavil (Amitriptyline) is an older antidepressant that's sometimes used to treat pain and sleep problems, but it can have more side effects than similar medications.Will Elavil work for you?

      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
    • Pamelor
      (Nortriptyline)
      Prescription only

      Pamelor (Nortriptyline) is a good option for treating depression, especially for people who also have problems with persistent nerve pain.

      Was it worth it?
      • Available dosage forms:
      • Pill
      • Liquid

Vaccine

  • Varicella vaccine
    Prescription only

    Varivax (Varicella Vaccine) is a safe and effective vaccine for the chickenpox.

    Was it worth it?
    • Available dosage forms:
    • Injection

Medication side effects for Shingles

These are some of the most common side effects from clinical trials for headache.

  • Zovirax: 3%
  • Neurontin: 9%
  • Varicella vaccine: 15%
  • Lyrica: 40%
0 of 100

At this end, no one is expected to have headache

100 of 100

At this end, almost everyone is expected to have headache

Tips, success stories, and coping strategies for Shingles

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