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Treatment for Herpes Zoster

There is no cure for herpes zoster, but there is treatment that can help reduce the severity and/or duration of an attack. For example, treatment often involves the use of antiviral medicines. Also, pain relievers can be used to treat complications like postherpetic neuralgia. Lifestyle changes that can be helpful include practicing good hygiene, getting enough rest, and using cold compresses.

Treatment for Herpes Zoster: An Overview

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

Antivirals and Pain Relievers

There is no cure for herpes zoster. Antiviral medicines are the drugs that are most commonly prescribed to treat the condition.
Some examples of antiviral medicines used for herpes zoster treatment include:
When given within 72 hours of the first symptoms of herpes zoster, the severity and duration of a herpes zoster 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 herpes zoster pain.
In one study looking at valacyclovir for herpes zoster, people who were treated with valacyclovir had their blisters stop forming one day sooner than those who did not take valacyclovir (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 famciclovir.
These medicines may perhaps affect the chances of developing herpes zoster 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.
Some other herpes zoster medications that may be recommended include pain relievers and anti-inflammatory corticosteroids such as prednisone. Corticosteroids are routinely used when the eye or other facial nerves are affected.
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