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Shingles vaccine

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 antiviral drugs like Valtrex and valacyclovir don’t cure shingles, they can make the outbreak shorter and less painful, particularly if it is started right away.  

What is Shingles?

The medical term for shingles is herpes zoster, but shingles is not the same as genital herpes. It is caused by a virus called varicella zoster, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox.

After you get over chickenpox, the virus settles in nerve tissue near your brain and spinal cord. It remains in the body but goes dormant. For unknown reasons, the varicella zoster virus sometimes reactivates years or even decades later, in the form of shingles. One theory is that it makes a reappearance when the body’s immune system is weakened (which happens naturally with age).

Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash, typically on 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.

According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in three Americans develops shingles each year. Of those, 10% to 18% develop PHN afterward, and one in four will be hospitalized. The risk of both shingles and PHN increases with age; around 30% will develop shingles during their lifetime.

Vaccines against shingles are available.

What to Do If You Get Shingles

Technically, shingles isn’t contagious. A person can get the virus if they come in contact with the fluid of a shingles blister, but they will not catch herpes zoster. They will get varicella zoster (chickenpox), but only if they haven’t had chickenpox previously or been vaccinated against it.

Men should be particularly careful about contracting shingles because shingles can (rarely) cause numbness in the buttocks and penis that can lead to temporary erectile dysfunction.

Shingles should be treated as soon as possible after it appears because it’s critical to minimizing the outbreak and cutting the risk of PHN (and yes, ED).

Antiviral Medications Like Valtrex

While only vaccination can prevent shingles, Valtrex can ease the length and severity of a shingles outbreak. Valtrex is an oral prescription medication that’s used to treat shingles, cold sores, genital herpes, and chickenpox.

Valtrex is not a cure for these viral conditions because the viruses continue to live in the body even after the outbreak is over. But it works best when you start taking it as soon as possible after signs of shingles show up.

Can Shingles Come Back?

Shingles is a painful condition. Thankfully, most people who get shingles will only have one episode of it, but it can recur in some people. Prompt treatment is critical to limiting the severity and duration of an outbreak, and vaccination is the best way to prevent a recurring infection.

eDrugstore sells prescription Valtrex and generic valacyclovir, which are used to treat shingles, cold sores, and genital herpes. We often ship orders the day they’re received. eDrugstore.com is HIPAA-compliant, and we are dedicated to the highest standards of customer service, privacy, and secure online ordering.

Paula Clark worked in the healthcare industry for 17 years before becoming a full-time freelance health and medical writer. Her clients appreciate her ability to convey complex information in terms laypeople can understand. Paula prides herself on the depth and accuracy of her research. Her goal is to add authority to your site in words that will delight both Google and your readers.