Men and women who have suffered from shingles are aware of the pain associated with the condition, but they can also take solace in knowing that a number of shingles treatments are available. Additionally, a vaccine is available to help prevent the condition from ever developing.
Medically known as herpes zoster, the disorder that is popularly known as shingles is related to chickenpox, a normally harmless disease that will at some time affect almost every human being. The virus that causes chickenpox can remain in a person's body for years or decades, and the regeneration of the virus, brought about by age, stress or other factors, is what leads to shingles. Since it is caused by a virus, the disorder has no cure.
One who suffers from shingles will generally experience a host of physical symptoms, including a headache and a fever. After a few days, a red rash will appear, and this condition will lead to blisters that ooze pus and eventually produce scabs that fall off. Shingles can affect any area of the body, but the chest is a common site for the formation of blisters.
Doctors employ a number of medications to relieve the effects of shingles. These include amitriptyline, which is also used to treat depression, and such virus-fighting drugs as acyclovir and famciclovir. Additionally, medicated creams may be applied directly to the blisters. Corticosteroids, which are similar to natural hormones, have in the past been used in the treatment of shingles, but this practice is comparatively rare today.
It is important to begin treatment as soon as the disorder has been identified, preferably within three days after the rash appears, in order to reduce the possibility of complications. Those who delay treatment may experience the condition known as postherpetic neuralgia, which causes severe nerve pain and can last for months or even years. Another condition that may develop is disseminated shingles, which is marked by a rash of blisters that can cover the body and also affect the heart, lungs and other internal organs. Potentially serious consequences can also result from shingles that affect the cranial nerves, which originate in the brain.
As with other health conditions, home remedies can be used in the treatment of shingles. One of the most important things a person suffering from the condition can do is to avoid picking or scratching the blisters that have formed. Untouched, the blisters should eventually form a crust and then fall off on their own.
Compresses that are cool and moist, and possibly used in conjunction with such lotions as calamine, can ease the discomfort associated with shingles. The healing of the sores can be facilitated through the use of baking soda or cornstarch, and the rash area can be cleaned with tap water. Over-the-counter medications, including aspirin and acetaminophen, can also be useful as home remedies when treating shingles.
A shingles vaccination is available, and medical authorities recommend it for those who are 60 years of age or older. Based on research, the vaccine can remain effective for at least six years. Those who have experienced allergic reactions to any of its components should avoid getting a shingles vaccination, as should women who are pregnant and individuals who have suffered from certain types of cancer or have weakened immune systems. However, someone who has suffered from shingles in the past may consider the vaccine as a means of preventing a recurrence of the disorder.
Shingles may not be curable, but shingles treatments, home remedies and a vaccine will go far in helping the many who suffer from the condition.