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Living With Shingles Pain

March 26, 2012

The pain associated with shingles can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, may persist for months after the rash heals. Fortunately, there are several treatment options to ease your discomfort.

From Everydayhealth

By Krisha McCoy, MS

Every year in the United States, more than 1 million people are newly diagnosed with shingles. The condition is typically marked by a blistering rash, but many people experience other symptoms first. Pain is often one of the earliest signs of shingles — you may feel it even before the rash appears and, in some cases, for months or years after the rash is gone. The good news is that there are treatments available that can help relieve this pain, and even shorten the duration of your shingles infection.

What Shingles Pain Feels Like

Individuals feel shingles pain in different ways. The pain associated with the shingles rash has been described as burning, itching, stinging, or tingling. In its milder form, shingles pain is more itchy than painful, and when it’s severe, shingles pain can be triggered by the brush of a bed sheet or a gentle breeze on the skin.

In most cases, shingles pain subsides when your rash heals, which usually takes a few weeks. But about 20 percent of people with shingles experience a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia, in which mild to severe pain can stay around for months after the shingles rash has cleared. In severe cases of postherpetic neuralgia, the pain can be debilitating and result in insomnia, weight loss, and depressive symptoms.

Treatment and Management of Shingles Pain

When you’re diagnosed with shingles, your doctor can prescribe antiviral medications such as Zovirax (acyclovir), Valtrex (valacyclovir), and Famvir (famciclovir), which can shorten the severity and duration of your illness, and cause your pain to abate sooner. Early diagnosis of shingles is critical, because antiviral medications work best when they’re started within the first three days after a shingles rash develops.

In addition to antiviral medications, your doctor may recommend the following to help reduce your shingles pain:

If you have postherpetic neuralgia, your doctor may also recommend the following to help ease your pain:

If you’re experiencing shingles pain or are still having pain after your shingles rash has healed, talk with your doctor. He or she can discuss the benefits and risks of pain relieving treatment options with you, and help find the right pain relief regimen for you.

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