Valtrex is an antiviral medication that helps prevent certain viruses from multiplying. When a healthcare provider prescribes Valtrex for shingles, it can help the rash heal more quickly. However, it will not change the length or severity of the pain caused by shingles. When using this medication, keep in mind that it cannot cure the disease, as the virus remains in your body and can become active again.
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) is a condition that is caused by the varicella zoster virus. This virus is also known as human herpes virus-3 (HHV-3). It is one of the eight herpes viruses known to infect humans. The shingles virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Most people become infected with this virus as a child. However, the body never completely gets rid of it, and the virus remains inactive in certain nerve cells in the body. Later in life, often triggered by stress or illness, the virus can become active again, causing shingles.
Symptoms of shingles may include a rash (usually on only one side of the body) and burning or tingling pain. Usually, the rash forms blisters that may break and ooze. If this happens, you may be able to spread the shingles virus to people who have never had chickenpox. Shingles pain can be quite severe and can continue long after the rash is gone (known medically as postherpetic neuralgia).
When Valtrex is used to treat shingles, it can help the rash heal more quickly. However, it will not change the length or severity of postherpetic neuralgia. The medication is not a cure for shingles, as the virus will always remain in your body and may become active again.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Valtrex [package insert]. Research Triangle Park, NC: GlaxoSmithKline;2010 March.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed December 4, 2009.
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