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Treatment

If your condition is diagnosed within 72 hours after the rash appears, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. Some antiviral medications used to treat shingles include acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). Antiviral medications may help to reduce the risk of developing chronic (long-lasting) pain from shingles.

The skin rash and blisters should be rinsed gently once or twice per day with cool water. Your doctor may suggest that you use antibiotic ointment on open areas. Because the pain that accompanies shingles can be intense, your doctor probably will prescribe a pain medication.

For post-herpetic neuralgia, different medications are often prescribed for the pain that lingers well after the rash has gone away. These drugs alter the way pain signals are perceived by our central nervous system. Examples include amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep), doxepin (Adapin, Sinequan) and gabapentin (Neurontin).

When shingles affects the eyes, an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) should be consulted immediately.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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