Shingles is a painful condition that can be caused by the varicella zoster virus. This virus is also responsible for chickenpox, which many people have already been exposed to in their lifetime. Shingles typically appear on one side of the body in a band-shaped pattern and then spreads across the entire torso before finally going away. The pain associated with this rash can last up to four weeks. Some people may experience complications from shingles, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which causes chronic burning or tingling after healing has occurred.
While it is not possible to cure shingles or to eliminate the virus from the body completely, there are several available treatment options.
Medical treatment of shingles include:
- Prescription antiviral medicines such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir to reduce duration and severity of the infection. This is most effective when started within 72 hours of the onset of the rash.
- Topical ointment for relieving shingles that typically contain topical acyclovir, lidocaine, and/or capsaicin
- Lotions containing calamine that can be used on open lesions to reduce pain and pruritus
- Anticonvulsants, tricyclic antidepressants, corticosteroids, or numbing agents to help relieve pain (Stankus et al., 2000)
- Applying a wet compress to the area of skin that is experiencing pain and inflammation
- Oral intake or topical applications of antihistamines to relieve the itchiness
In addition to the above medical treatments, several natural remedies for shingles can also help with relieving symptoms.
- Topical application of essential oils such as chamomile oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil, which are said to have anti-inflammatory properties
- Witch hazel cream to reduce inflammation and itchiness
- Keeping the rash clean and dry, covering the inflammation with loosely bound dressing for protection, and wearing loose-fitting clothing to reduce discomfort
- Using cool water to bathe helps not only to keep sores and blisters clean but also to relieve soreness and itchiness.
- Adding colloidal (or ground) oatmeal or baking soda to cool bath water to moisten the skin and to soothe sensitive and inflamed skin
- Vitamin supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and selenium to improve immune function
- Consuming a herbal formula of Gentiana scabra, a blue or purple flower occurring throughout North America, which is said to have a positive effect on pain relief in shingles while also decreasing the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia (Crichton-Stuart, 2018)
- Improving one’s diet by taking in more food containing carotenoids such as lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and provitamin A, which help to boost immune function. Foods to look out for include orange foods such as carrot, pumpkin, and apricot, red foods such as watermelon, red pepper, grapefruit, and cherry, and green foods such as kale and parsley spinach, melon, lettuce, and endive. Limiting the intake of trans and saturated fats, as well as avoiding added sugar and salt, can also reduce inflammation and improve immune function
- Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and reducing stress, which will help to boost immunity and improve the healing function of the body
While it is not possible to cure shingles, it is possible to find relief from the symptoms of this uncomfortable condition. More research needs to be done to determine how best to prevent shingles. Still, there are a variety of treatment options, from medical treatment to natural remedies, that can reduce the duration and severity of the infection and provide immediate help with pain and itchiness. Discuss possible options with your doctor to help find the best solution for you.
Crichton-Stuart, C. (2018, June 14). 10 natural treatments and home remedies for shingles. Medical News Today.
Stankus, S. J., Dlugopolski, M., & Packer, D. (2000, April 15). Management of herpes Zoster (Shingles) And Postherpetic Neuralgia. American Family Physician.