Side Effects With Shingles Treatment

Shingles is a fairly common virus caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus which is reactivated after lying dormant in the sensory nervous system following a bout of chickenpox. Shingles is most common in the over 50’s but can affect people of any age and is commonly sparked by a weakening of the immune system which can be due to many reasons such as poor nutrition, stress and other medication causing immune system suppression.

The virus affects the nerve endings and the skin in the surrounding area causing pain and a rash. There is no cure for shingles although doctors can prescribe a range of medication to help treat the symptoms of the virus; however, the medication needed is often strong and there are generally side effects with shingles treatment medication. The side effects differ depending on the drug used with some being more serious than others; medication used will usually depend on how severe the pain being suffered by a shingles sufferer is.

Paracetamol for shingles treatment

In a lot of cases (particularly in young adults and children) the symptoms of shingles are mild and the use of over-the counter medication such as paracetamol is enough to relieve any pain. Side effects of shingles treatment of this kind are rare unless taken in excess of the recommended dose when drowsiness and low blood pressure may arise.

Ibuprofen for shingles treatment

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which is often used as an alternative to paracetamol. Ibuprofen is also a good drug for the treatment of mild to moderate pain but does present a number of side effects which mean it is only to be taken in low doses.

Common side effects of shingles treatment using ibuprofen include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Indigestion

Side effects of opioids in shingles treatment

When a shingles patient is suffering from a more severe form of pain, a GP may prescribe an opioid based painkiller. In the majority of cases the opioid prescribed will be codeine although morphine is also used in certain cases. Both codeine and morphine have numerous side effects that can affect anyone on the medication, these include:

  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Flushing
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of sexual desire

Side effects of antidepressants and anticonvulsants in shingles treatment

When shingles pain is severe and/or prolonged the use of drugs such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants may be used, this is especially true when postherpetic neuralgia is present. Both antidepressants and anticonvulsants can ease pain by controlling nerve activity in the brain which can dampen down the nerves senses. There is a range of side effects with shingles treatment of this kind with both forms of medication having similar effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea (anticonvulsants)
  • Constipation (antidepressants)
  • Reduced sexual desire


Unlike other painkilling medication, antidepressants and anticonvulsants are not fast acting and the effects may not be felt for several weeks, they are both also highly addictive and it will take a considerable amount of time to wean a patient off the medication.




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