Treatment For Shingles

Shingles is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus which is also the cause of the chicken pox virus and while not overly common in the UK, can be extremely painful and irritable for anyone suffering from the symptoms affecting nerves and the surrounding area of skin.

A bout of shingles will generally last around 2-4 weeks and symptoms will begin with a tingling sensation which is quickly followed with pain and then a rash. The tummy and chest are the most commonly affected areas with shingles although the virus can spread to any part of the body. A feeling of general un-wellness, muscle pain, exhaustion, burning, itchiness and a high temperature and all common symptoms of the virus and while there is no actual cure, there are medicines that can be used for the treatment of shingles.

Painkilling medication for shingles

Painkilling medication is commonly used as a treatment for shingles and a number of different painkilling drugs can be administered by a GP depending on the severity of the pain.

The most commonly used painkiller is paracetamol; this is widely available and can be purchased as an over-the-counter medicine. Paracetamol is beneficial in the treatment of mild to moderate pain and has little side effects. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen can also be used as an alternative to paracetamol although may be unsuitable for certain shingles sufferers.

For more severe pain, treatment for shingles may be given in the form of opioids. The most common form of opioids is codeine and is generally prescribed by a GP with a course of paracetamol tablets.

Medicine not normally associated with the treatment of other conditions can also be used as a painkilling treatment for shingles, medicine include antidepressants (normally associated with depression) and anticonvulsants (generally prescribed for the controlling of seizures related to epilepsy).

Antidepressants can be helpful in smaller doses to manage severe and prolonged pain as a result of shingles. Anticonvulsants, also used in a smaller amount, can help to ease nerve pain by stabilising nerve activity in the brain.

Antiviral Medication for shingles

Some people that suffer from shingles may be prescribed antiviral medication alongside painkilling medication. Although it cannot kill the shingles virus, antiviral medication can be beneficial in helping to stop the virus from multiplying.

The use of antiviral medication is known to provide the following benefits:

  • Reduce the amount of time that the shingles will last.
  • Reduce the severity of the shingles. This is particularly the case if the medication is taken in the early stages of the virus.
  • Prevent complications from developing as a result of the shingles.


The antiviral medication is at its most effective when taken within the first three days of the rash appearing and will need to be taken for seven to ten days.

Antiviral medication as a treatment for shingles predominantly prescribed to the over 50’s, pregnant women may be prescribed the medication if the benefits outweigh the risks. This kind of medication is generally not required for children as the symptoms of the virus are usually mild and the risk on complication is low.




Back to Top