An attack of shingles (caused by the reactivated chickenpox virus, which usually stays dormant in people who had the disease) is typified by burning pain and sensitive skin, followed by a blistering rash that takes weeks to resolve. The antiviral drugs acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir may reduce symptoms if started within three days of getting the rash. Pain relievers such as gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), and a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin) may also be prescribed, especially when severe pain lingers after the rash clears. Qutenza, a new prescription patch for nerve pain, is applied by a doctor and delivers a synthetic form of capsaicin, the chemical found in chili peppers. To prevent shingles, the Zostavax vaccine is recommended for those over 60 who have had chickenpox. When an unvaccinated person develops shingles, the shot may be given after the rash heals to prevent a recurrence. If you suspect shingles, see a doctor.
Published: June 2, 2010
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