Aside from seeing the disgusting blisters, an affected person can also experience itching and pain. This is frustrating and you definitely don’t want this to happen so read this Shingles pain relief post and you will surely know what to do if you or your loved ones especially your grandparents were struck by this disease.
- 1 Where is Shingles coming from?
- 2 What are the painkillers or common drugs to relieve pain?
- 3 I just want an over-the-counter medicine as of this moment. What would you recommend?
- 4 If a patient decides to buy medicines later, what home remedies can he or she do?
- 5 How can patients make themselves heal faster and what are the preventive measures for this?
Where is Shingles coming from?
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is characterized by skin rashes with burning or shooting pain along a nerve or on a single area of the body. The rashes consist of pustules filled with infectious liquid, which slowly dry, flake and fall off. It occurs due to the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, or chickenpox virus as it is commonly called, which lies dormant in the roots of nerves. Shingles is most common in adults over 60 years of age. Like other viral diseases, there is no proper cure for shingles and the available treatment is to cure the symptoms and reduce the duration and intensity of the rashes. This skin disease automatically clears up within three to five weeks from the first appearance of rashes. The disease is also contagious and care must be taken while coming in contact with infected individuals.
A tingling or burning pain may experience even before the first appearance of the blisters or rashes. Depending on which nerve is affected or involved in the reactivation of the virus, the pain can even be mistaken for headache, stomach pain or even angina (heart or chest pain). This pain continues throughout the duration of the disease and sometimes is so debilitating that the patients are unable to do any work or even rest comfortably.
What are the painkillers or common drugs to relieve pain?
Doctors generally prescribe antiviral drugs like acyclovir or valacyclovir within the first 1-3 days after the rash begins to develop. These antiviral medicines control the length of the episode, and also the degree of severity of blisters and pain.
In almost 15% of the individuals who develop shingles, the pain persists for weeks, months or even years after the rash has disappeared. This complication, known as postherpetic neuralgia, is due to damage to the associated nerve or nerve inflammation during shingles. A 7 to 10 day antiviral course also reduces the chances of complications like post-herpetic neuralgia, facial paralysis, blindness, etc.
To curb pain, patients can take commonly available OTC painkillers like ibuprofen or, in case of extreme pain, can even ask their physician to prescribe a stronger narcotic pain medication like morphine or oxycodone. Some doctors recommend local anaesthetics like Lidocaine, which are available as topical creams or slow-release patches.
Anaesthetics numb the affected area so that the patient does not experience pain for some time. Anaesthetic patches and creams can also be used to treat pain in cases of postherpetic neuralgia complications. In addition, steroid and non-steroid based anti-inflammatory medicines and antihistamine drugs can help soothe the rashes, reduce itching and pain.
Injections that can block pain nerve activity are also available on prescription and can be administered by doctors or qualified practitioners.
Nontraditional treatment includes the use of anti-depressants and anticonvulsant medicines to control pain. Both of these drug types depress nerve activity and, therefore, reduce nerve related pain, which is typical of shingles. All of these medicines allow the affected individual to be more comfortable by considerably lowering pain.
Since the pain associated with shingles is intense and almost unbearable, doctors recommend natural or homemade pain remedies in addition to traditional treatment to help ease the patients’ discomfort.
I just want an over-the-counter medicine as of this moment. What would you recommend?
The most widely used over-the-counter medication for shingles is the capsaicin extract. Capsaicin is extracted from pepper or chili and is very effective for relieving pain. Topical application of capsaicin causes nerves to release all the neurotransmitters that transmit pain signals to the brain and burn out the receptors. Initially, this causes pain to increase, but then the nerves become incapable of transmitting pain signals for a while and the individual cannot feel pain in that area. Capsaicin, pain patches, creams and powders are readily available at local chemist shops or drugstores.
If a patient decides to buy medicines later, what home remedies can he or she do?
Soaking the affected area in cool water or using a cool compress can provide relief from pain and itching for a short while. Some patients find that dipping their skin in hot water intermittently for 30 second periods or using ice packs for short durations numbs the skin from pain thus, giving them temporary comfort.
Washcloths soaked in apple cider can be applied to the blistered areas and are found to be effective in alleviating pain and burning.
Zinc powder mixed with aloe vera juice or vitamin E can be used topically to control pain. Vitamin E also prevents nerve damage and complications that may arise from shingles. Herbal oils, like peppermint, are also helpful in pain relief. Other unscented moisturizers or lotions also provide relief from itching.
Oral vitamin B12 supplements have been proven to reduce nerve related pain and are quite effective. Proteolytic enzymes are another effective treatment for shingles pain. Proteolytic enzymes, or protein digesting enzymes, occur naturally in the pancreas of animals (including humans) and also in many plants. Commonly used proteolytic enzymes are papain from papayas, bromelain from pineapples and trypsin or chymotrypsin from animal sources. These enzymes are available at pharmacies as tablets. These can prevent viral replication and therefore, reduce pain, inflammation and hasten healing.
How can patients make themselves heal faster and what are the preventive measures for this?
Some patients include more proteins, dairy and vegetables in their diet. Avoiding sugar is strongly advised so shingles will heal faster. Others opt for colloidal oatmeal baths to calm inflammation and help them relax. Vitamin supplements have been found to be beneficial and can aid in controlling shingles symptoms in many ways. However, once an individual contracts the disease, the infection will take at least three weeks to clear from the body and no treatment can eliminate it immediately. Pain medicines, itch relievers, natural remedies and other symptomatic treatments can only help make the period more bearable for the patient.
Wear cool and comfortable clothes so that the air supply to the blistered skin is not cut off, and keeping this area clean and dry not only allows you to become more comfortable but also prevents bacteria from infecting it.
Shingles vaccination, also known as Zostavax, might also be a solution. It has now been approved for individuals older than 60 years. While this vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing shingles, it reduces the chances of this disease’s occurrence by 50% and drastically decreases the intensity of its symptoms. Even some individuals who had Zostavax might still be struck by shingles, they will surely have less painful rashes and their blisters will also clear up quicker compared to those who didn’t get the vaccination.
Assuming that this post have satisfied your curiosity, you can now do your own shingles pain relief or have clues about what will the doctor advise or prescribe you. If you have complications or are allergic to other medicines, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor.