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While there is no cure for shingles, there are a number of different treatments that can bring relief from the pain and itching of this viral infection. Some are simple home remedies, and others require the assistance of steroids or antiviral drugs. Really, the best treatment for shingles depends upon each individual, and the severity of an outbreak. No two cases are alike, which is one of the facets of shingles that make it such a frustrating ailment.
Shingles most often appear in older people, or those whose immune systems have somehow been weakened. But, in truth, anyone who has ever had the chickenpox is susceptible to shingles. The virus that causes chickenpox, a variety of the herpes virus, lies dormant in the nerve roots for life. Sometimes it never reappears, but for some, it can crop up again as shingles. It generally takes the form of a rash, which progresses into a band of painful, fluid-filled blisters.
Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen can sometimes be an effective treatment for shingles, but only in terms of pain management. It is also a common sense practice not to scratch at the blisters or break them, which could lead to infection. Again, while there is no cure, some medications do seem to shorten the duration of a shingles attack.
The most effective shingles treatment begins with starting on medication as soon as itching begins or a rash becomes evident. The most effective medications are the antiviral drugs. Those that seem to bring about the best results go under the brand names of Zorvirax® and Valtrex®. However, as medical technology increases so to does the discovery of new and more potent antivirals. There is a good possibility, that, in the near future, new drugs will prove to be even more effective than those in current use.
In addition to the antivirals, should over-the-counter pain medications fail to bring relief, doctors will sometimes administer corticosteroids as treatment for shingles. Some people tolerate these drugs well, and others do not, however in many cases they appear to not only ease pain but also shorten the duration of an outbreak. Furthermore, antibiotic creams or ointments are usually applied to the skin to ward off the possibility of infection.
Treatment for shingles may be required long after the rash and blisters have disappeared, a condition known as postherpectic neuralgia. For the unlucky people saddled with this condition, pain can endure for days, weeks, months, or even years. In such cases, there are few options save for strong, prescription painkillers and anti-depressants.