Shingles Infection Pain Management – Medications and Vaccinations

There is no argument that shingles is a painful ordeal to have to endure, particularly for the elderly who are the ones mostly frequented by this disease.  Treatment for zoster is mainly palliative, but it is the antiviral meds that can help to interrupt the virus’s ability to replicate, which can lessen the severity and length of time the disease is active.

Medications for shingles are used to combat pain, shorten the duration of the disease, and decrease the risk of complications.


Cellulitis: A bacterial skin infection that can spread to the blood or lymph nodes, which can be deadly
Postherpetic Neuralgia: A painful condition of the nerve fibers and skin
Encephalitis: Inflammation of the brain
Hearing loss
Visual problems that can be temporary or permanent
Facial paralysis
Ramsay Hunt syndrome: Infection of the facial nerve with painful rash and facial muscle weakness

The active stage of shingles can prove to be a very painful and debilitating condition.  The good news is there are medications to combat the affects that an outbreak can have on your life.


Pain medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen, to decrease pain
Antiviral medications such as Acyclovir (Zovirax), Valacyclovir (Valtrex), and Famciclovir (Famvir)
Corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone and prednisone taken orally or by injection
Topical antibiotics applied to the skin to prevent bacterial infection on open and leaking blisters

Drugs for Postherpetic Neuralgia:

Acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen
Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
Topical medications, such as a lidocaine patch
Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin or pregabalin (Lyrica)
Corticosteroids, such as prednisone
Nerve block
Opioids, such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine

The Zostavax Vaccine:

Zostavax, a chickenpox booster vaccine, was licensed in 2006 for the prevention of herpes zoster.  Clinical trials were conducted that thwarted the disease in approximately 50% of people 60 years old and up.  Additionally, it  significantly reduced the pain associated with this condition. However, this vaccine is contraindicated in people who have severe allergies, such as a reaction to gelatin and certain antibiotics such as neomycin.


Immune system problems such as HIV/AIDS
Drug treatments that affect the immune system such as steroids, radiation, or chemotherapy
History of leukemia or lymphoma
Active TB
Expectant mothers

Women should avoid pregnancy for at least 12 weeks after having the Zostivax vaccine.  Additionally, people who are experiencing any sickness should not be vaccinated until they have recovered, especially if there is a fever.

As with all medications there are some risks involved that you should familiarize yourself with.

Mild problems include: Redness, soreness, swelling, or itching at the injection site and headache.

Severe Reactions: Respiratory distress, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, rapid heart rate, and dizziness. These symptoms would manifest within a few hours of being vaccinated.

Contact your health care provider if you think a shingles infection is about to take place.  Early and fast treatment can prevent serious complications.