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Shingles Treatment: Medicines & Home Remedies

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 336 views

In the treatment of shingles , antiviral drugs and painkillers are mainly used. Careful skin care is also very important. Some patients also use home remedies to relieve symptoms. Read more about herpes zoster therapy here! 

ICD codes for this disease:

ICD codes are internationally valid codes for medical diagnoses. They can be found, for example, in doctor’s letters or on certificates of incapacity for work.


How is shingles treated?

Shingles can be cured once the varicella-zoster virus infection has cleared. There are different approaches to treat shingles. Some target the rash, others the pain, and still others target the cause: they help expel the virus from the body. This may shorten the healing time.

What home remedies can help?

The treatment of shingles belongs in professional hands. In addition to treatment by the doctor, some people use home remedies, for example to relieve the symptoms. Many find cooling, damp compresses beneficial when blisters have already formed. They sometimes help against symptoms such as pain and itching.

Honey, sea buckthorn or natural yoghurt are also occasionally used to alleviate the unpleasant itching associated with shingles.

Home remedies have their limits. If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not get better or even get worse, you should always consult a doctor.

What relieves the pain?

The acute pain of shingles can be relieved with painkillers. Sometimes moderately effective drugs such as paracetamol or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) are sufficient. These also have an antipyretic effect. They are available at pharmacies without a prescription.

More severe pain often requires stronger painkillers from the opioid group, such as tramadol . Such drugs require a prescription.

Ointments and creams for skin care

Careful skin care is an important part of treatment for shingles (herpes zoster). Disinfectant powders, for example, prevent bacteria from settling on the affected areas of the skin. Depending on the stage, antiseptic, drying or antipruritic lotions, ointments, gels or powders are also recommended. Possible active ingredients include tannins, menthol or podicanol.

antiviral agents

Antiviral drugs target the cause of shingles directly: the varicella-zoster virus. They inhibit the multiplication of viruses and are therefore called virostatics . Examples from this drug class are aciclovir, valaciclovir, foscarnet and brivudine.

Antiviral shingles therapy speeds healing and shortens the duration of pain. The prerequisite is that you start early: Doctors recommend starting antiviral therapy within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash. Normally, the virostatics are taken as a tablet . In the case of a severe course of the disease and in patients with immunodeficiency, the doctor also administers it as an infusion .

A shingles treatment with viro-statics is basically useful. However, in some cases it is not absolutely necessary. This applies, for example, to young patients who do not have a severe form of shingles and for whom complications are not to be expected.

In other cases, however, antiviral therapy is urgently recommended, for example in the case of:

  • Patients older than 50 years
  • Shingles on the face, head or neck
  • Severe courses of herpes zoster
  • People with an increased risk of complications (such as immunodeficiency)

Other medicines

If the shingles disease affects an ear, some patients also receive cortisone in addition to the virostatics . It has an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing the body’s immune response. At present, however, it is still unclear what advantages and disadvantages such a combination treatment has.

If a bacterial infection has also developed on the shingles rash, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic . It fights the bacteria and is often used as an ointment.

Alternative treatments for shingles

Some people use Schuessler salts for shingles, for example potassium chloratum, ferrum phosphoricum or potassium phosphoricum. Homeopathic remedies are also used for herpes zoster.

The concept of homeopathy and the use of Schuessler salts is controversial in science. The effect of these funds has not been conclusively proven.

Treatment of post herpetic neuralgia

The most common complication of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia. It is also called post-herpetic or post-herpetic neuralgia. Those affected suffer from nerve pain even after the rash has gone away. In addition, their skin is hypersensitive and itchy. In some cases, the symptoms last for months or even years.

The doctor treating you will create an individual therapy plan for each patient. Painkillers are an important part. A distinction is made between two classes of active ingredients, which may also be used in combination:

  • Non-opioid pain relievers such as acetylsalicylic acid or paracetamol. They are recommended for mild to moderate symptoms and are usually available in pharmacies without a prescription.
  • Opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone or tramadol. They require a prescription and are only prescribed for moderate to severe pain.

Which painkillers are useful in which dosage varies from patient to patient. The type and severity of the pain play a role here. Also, the doctor will consider how well someone is responding to a pain reliever and any side effects.

In the case of persistent (chronic) pain, doctors recommend that their patients seek advice and treatment from a pain therapist, pain center or pain clinic.

Further measures in post-herpetic neuralgia

In addition to painkillers, low-dose antidepressants are also useful for post-herpetic neuralgia. They inhibit the transmission of pain signals in the spinal cord. The doctor also sometimes prescribes antispasmodic drugs : they reduce the excitability of nerve cells. This also helps with nerve pain.

Capsaicin preparations (e.g. as an ointment) are also helpful : Capsaicin is a pungent substance found in chili peppers. It triggers a burning sensation on the skin, which temporarily paralyzes the pain receptors. Alternatively, a cream with a local anesthetic ( lidocaine ) can be applied.

Since chronic pain also burdens the psyche and severely restricts the everyday life of those affected, doctors recommend psychotherapy or behavioral therapy to accompany drug treatment .

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