Medicines can help limit the pain and discomfort caused by shingles, shorten the time you have symptoms, and prevent the spread of the disease. Medicines also may reduce your chances of developing shingles complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) or disseminated zoster.
Medicines to treat shingles when the rash is present (active stage) may include:
- Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help reduce pain. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Antiviral medicines, to reduce the pain and duration of shingles.
- Topical antibiotics, which are applied directly to the skin, to stop infection of the blisters.
Medicines to treat postherpetic neuralgia pain may include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline.
- Medicines put on the skin (topical medicines), such as creams or skin patches containing capsaicin or lidocaine.
- Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin or pregabalin.
- Nerve block injections.
- Tramadol and other opioids, such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine.
What to think about
For some people, nonprescription pain relievers (analgesics) are enough to help control pain caused by shingles or postherpetic neuralgia. But for others, stronger medicines may be needed. And if prescription medicines don't help control your pain, you may need to see a pain specialist about other ways to treat PHN.