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How to Fight Off Shingles

Shingles is a painful outbreak of the varicella zoster virus. Today, vaccines against shingles are available, as are treatments that can be used as soon as a shingles outbreak is recognized. While anti-viral drugs like Valtrex don’t cure shingles, they can make the outbreak shorter and less painful, particularly if it is started right away. 

 

The medical term for shingles is herpes zoster.

Shingles causes a painful, blistered rash, typically along one side of the body, which usually lasts two to four weeks. While it often resolves completely in that time, some people develop severe nerve pain afterward called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN. PHN can cause pain for months, or even years, and is more common in older people who get shingles.

Shingles is caused by a virus called varicella zoster, which is the same virus that causes chicken pox. After you get over chicken pox, the virus remains in the body, but goes dormant. For unknown reasons, the varicella zoster virus sometimes reactivates years or decades later in the form of shingles. Around one million Americans develop shingles each year, and of those, 10 to 20% develop PHN afterwards. The rates of both shingles and PHN increase with age. Around 30% of people will develop shingles during their lifetime.

The Shingles Vaccine

An FDA-approved shingles vaccine exists for people over 50, and the Centers for Disease Control recommends that people over age 60 who have had chicken pox have the shingles vaccine. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers pay for the shingles vaccine in over-60s who receive the vaccine as part of their yearly preventative physical. Insurers may or may not cover the shingles vaccine for people between ages 50 and 60. It costs $200 to $250 if you have to pay for it yourself.

The vaccine isn’t perfect, however, and it’s still too new to know how long protection lasts. While the vaccine prevents 51% of all shingles cases (and works better in younger people), perhaps its main selling point is that outbreaks that occur in vaccinated people are milder, and these people are less likely to get PHN.

Vaccines against shingles are available.

 

If You Get Shingles

Shingles isn’t passed from one person to another, but someone with shingles can transmit the varicella zoster virus to people who have not had chicken pox or been vaccinated against chicken pox. So someone with shingles can give chicken pox to someone who hasn’t had it or been vaccinated against it. Treating shingles as soon as possible after it appears is critical to minimizing the outbreak and cutting the risk of PHN.

Anti-Viral Medications Like Valtrex

Valtrex is an oral prescription medication that’s used to treat shingles, cold sores, genital herpes, and chicken pox. Anti-viral medications like Valtrex slow the growth of viruses, but are not cures for them, because the viruses continue to live in the body even after the outbreak is over. Valtrex, however, decreases the length of the outbreak and the severity, and it works best when you start taking it as soon as possible after signs of shingles show up. Moreover, Valtrex can also help reduce the incidence and severity of PHN, particularly when patients start taking it early in an outbreak.

Can Shingles Come Back?

Most people who get shingles will only have one episode of it, but it can recur in some people. People with no contraindications can prevent recurrence of shingles with the shingles vaccine, which has shown effectiveness in decreasing recurrent outbreaks. Recurrences of shingles, like a first shingles outbreak, can be limited in severity with prompt use of antivirals like Valtrex as soon as the recurrence is noticed.

Shingles is a painful condition, and prompt treatment is critical to limiting the severity and duration of a shingles outbreak. eDrugstore.com sells prescription Valtrex, which is used to treat shingles, cold sores, and genital herpes, and often ships orders the day they’re received. eDrugstore.com is HIPAA-compliant, and is dedicated to the highest standards of customer service, privacy, and secure online ordering.

 

Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+