Shingles is a viral skin infection that looks like a chicken pox except that it focuses only on an area of the body. Shingles can be very painful and one wants to make the pain go away as fast as possible. While medicine can reduce inflammation and can shorten the healing process, it can also reduce the chances of having shingles complications such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or disseminated zoster.
Then, what is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or disseminated zoster?
Disseminated zoster or known as disseminated shingles is fatal and a more alarming condition of shingles. It can invade the blood stream or body organs, such as the lungs or brain. One needs to be admitted to the hospital with a visual examination including steroidal and antiviral drugs, to ease symptoms and prevent complications.
So to avoid this level of complication, antiviral medicines and pain killers are needed.
Would buying over-the-counter painkillers instead of going to a physician is enough?
For mild shingle rashes, people who have this can manage these rashes without pain medications but majority still needs medications to manage pain. Some are content with buying over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin. In their homes, percocet, vicodin, medications aiming the nerves such as gabapentin or tricyclic medications such as nortriptyline, desipramine, or amitriptyline could be used. But still, prescribed pain medications by a physician are still needed. Worse, if severe pain persists, the person must be admitted to the hospital and will have to be treated by intravenous pain medications.
Other medicines that would also treat the pain are Nerve block injections and Opioid painkiller known as Tramadol.
Warning: Tramadol should not be taken at the same time as tricycylic antidepressants, which are also used for long-lasting pain after shingles.
Commonly, shingles pain can be treated by medicines that can be used as well in treating epilepsy and depression. These medicines could change the nervous system to treat the pain. Advantages against disadvantages of taking painkillers must be weighted.
Be careful with placebos. A placebo is a dummy medicine that contains no active substances. Aside from feeling better from pain, healing process and condition must be observed. If side effects are dominant, just consult again to a physician and ask for medicine re-prescription.
How about combining medicines for pain relief?
If taking one medicine does not help, combining medicines may work together like combining gabapentin or neurontin with an opioid painkiller.
Combining medicines are common and physicians often prescribe these. One example is combining anti-inflammatory drugs plus opioid drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone or vicodin. Using this combination maximizes pain relief. If painkillers were combined with non-pain killers, sedation and drowsiness might occur. Doctors must be careful in prescribing and combining painkillers with anti-anxiety drugs, muscle relaxants, and other medications that also have sedating properties such as anticonvulsant drugs for it might result to an addictive effect.
While taking opioids, these are the side effects that may be found out: Dizziness, Constipation, Drowsiness and general illness feeling.
I don’t want to take pills or tablets. Is there a topical medicine to alleviate pain?
There are topical medicines that are specialized in immediate pain relief. The best topical medicines out there contain capsaicin or lidocaine.
It is best to get oral medicines together with topical medicines so you can manage the pain and at the same time be healed faster so you can fight the zoster virus and continue your normal activities.
Painkiller medicine comparison
Everyone who has pain is considering taking painkillers. There are many painkillers for shingles but how would one know which one is the best. Different painkillers work better if one knows the differences between those. In case of pain originated from the virus or nerves as shingles, here is the comparison made for the most popular painkillers.
Paracetamol is used by patients to treat headaches and non-nerve pains. 2-4 tablets a day is a safe dosage for adults. This medicine can be taken within long periods since it generally doesn’t have side effects.
If pain is severe, don’t try to increase dosage that it might result to serious side effects. If the pain lasts for more than three days, have a consultation with your physician.
Aspirin is often used to relieve only minor aches and pains but it is dangerous to give this painkiller to children under 12 years of age.
This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), Ibuprofen, works better when pain was caused by an inflammation of shingles.
This drug must not be taken if a person with shingles has heart attack or if being treated with methylene blue injection.
Percocet (Oxycodone and Acetaminophen)
Percocet is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. Percocet should not be used if one have recently used alcohol, sedatives, tranquilizers, or other narcotic medications.
Taking more than the recommended medication may lead to liver damage or death. If experiencing nausea, pain in upper stomach, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes), a doctor must be called immediately.
Amitriptyline and Gabapentin
Amitriptyline is a drug for depression while gabapentin is a drug for epilepsy. These medicines can also be used to treat pain caused by nervous system damage. An affected person doesn’t need to be depressed or have epilepsy to take this drug. Side effects caused by these painkillers are drowsiness and dizziness.
Morphine and morphine-like drugs such as oxycodone, fentanyl and buprenorphine are the strongest painkillers out there. Morphine may be packaged as a patch as well. This medicine must be only used for severe pain and nothing else. Because of its strength, careful monitoring of dosage and its effect will be made by a physician or pain specialist. Morphine is used for a long term solution to manage pain.
Does a pack of ice help in relieving shingles?
A pack of ice helps in relieving pain through placing it on the affected area. It eases the pain, itching and burning sensation.
The duration of putting an ice pack to the skin must be observed since prolonged use of ice pack can lead to local tissue damage.