Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Shingles Health Center

Font Size

Radiation May Wipe Out Shingles' Effects

Treatment Can Help Prevent Long-Lasting Shingles Pain
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 18, 2005 (Denver) -- Radiation therapy can help wipe out the blistery rash and potentially debilitating pain of shingles, the researcher of a new study suggests.

The treatment could be an alternative for people who can't take the antiviral drugs usually used to treat shingles, says researcher Mohammed Suleiman, MD, a radiation oncologist at Hospital of Sion in Switzerland.

Each year in the United States, shingles strikes at least 850,000 people. Although children and younger adults can get it, most victims are over 60 and their immune systems have begun to wane. By age 85, one in two people will have had a bout. Other susceptible people are those with diseases that weaken the immune system or people who are taking medications that might suppress the immune system.

Shingles itself comes from reactivation of the chickenpox virus. The virus travels down nerve fibers to cause an itchy, painful skin rash that follows along the particular nerve in a band-like distribution called a dermatome.

When the rash goes away, the pain usually goes with it. But for 12% to 15% of people the pain remains. Doctors call this postherpetic neuralgia -- a truly debilitating condition that can last for months or years.

Some antiviral drugs such as Zovirax, Valtrex, and Famvir have been shown to reduce the duration of postherpetic neuralgia if begun within the first three days of the appearance of tingling or rash, Suleiman tells WebMD.

But not all people can take the drugs. People with kidney problems can't. Nor can a lot of elderly persons -- the very people whom shingles is most likely to strike, he says.

That's where radiation comes in.

Today on WebMD

varicella zoster virus
How to recognize this painful rash.
shingles rash
Symptoms, causes, and treatment.
nurse administering flu vaccine
8 questions, answered.
senior woman
Are you more likely to get it?
shingles rash
woman holding her lower back
New PHN Drug Cuts Lingering Shingles Pain
mature man with serious expression