Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is also called herpes zoster.
An outbreak of shingles usually follows this course:
To treat shingles, your health care provider may prescribe:
You may have post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) pain. This is pain that lasts longer than a month after symptoms of shingles start.
To relieve itching and discomfort, these things can help:
Keep your skin clean. Throw away bandages you use to cover your skin sores. Throw away or wash in hot water clothing that has contact with your skin sores. Wash your sheets and towels in hot water.
While your skin sores are still open and oozing, avoid all contact with anyone who has never had chickenpox -- especially pregnant women.
Resting in bed until your fever goes down is advised.
For pain, you can take a type of medicine called NSAIDs. You do not need a prescription for these.
You may also take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for pain relief. If you have liver disease, talk with your health care provider before using it.
You may be given narcotics pain relievers. Take them only as directed. These medicines can:
Call your health care provider if:
Herpes zoster - treatment
Cohen J. Varicella-Zoster virus (chickenpox, shingles). In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia,Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 383.
Warts, herpes simplex, and other viral infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed.St. Louis,Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 12.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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