A virus called varicella-zoster is responsible for the viral infection called shingles. Many people suffer from chickenpox, especially early in life, which is also caused by this virus. After recovering from chickenpox, the virus can lie dormant and be reactivated later in life, causing shingles. While this condition typically goes away on its own in a few weeks, you can treat it to ease your symptoms and recover more quickly.
The best way to treat shingles is to do so promptly. Ideally, this should be done within 72 hours of the manifestation of symptoms for a speedy and complication-free recovery. In order to do so, you should be able to recognize the typical symptoms.
Classic signs of shingles includes a skin rash and blisters that stretch from your chest, around your side, to the back. Additionally, the skin rash may affect the neck and facial area. These blisters are filled with fluid, and can break open to form a crust. You may also experience itching, pain, and burning. Some patients also experience headaches, general fatigue, and aching, as well as fevers and chills.
If you notice any of these possible symptoms of shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible for treatment. Most likely, your doctor will make a diagnosis based on a physical examination and symptom evaluation. He may also analyze a tissue sample, or scraping, from the rash or blisters.
As soon as a diagnosis is made, you can treat shingles by taking oral antiviral medications. Examples of some of the drugs your doctor may prescribe include famciclovir, acyclovir, and valacyclovir. Tell your doctor about any allergies to drugs you may have, as well as current medications you take. This can help you avoid a negative drug interaction.
In addition to the antiviral drugs, talk to your doctor about pain medications. Evaluate the level of pain you are experiencing to decide the best type for you. The physician may prescribe narcotic painkillers, anticonvulsants, or tricyclic antidepressants. Or you may prefer a topical painkiller, like lidocaine, which can be applied directly to the skin to numb the pain.
There is a possibility that the blisters on your skin will become infected. Try to keep the area clean, dry, and bandaged, and refrain from scratching them to prevent this. Your doctor may also recommend applying an antibiotic cream for this reason.
While your doctor cannot give you a medication that will cure shingles, you can alleviate your symptoms and speed healing. Follow all of your doctor's instructions regarding any drugs he prescribes. It may also help if you take some time off from work or school to rest while you recover.