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Shingles

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Treatment

The best treatment for shingles and chickenpox is prevention. A varicella vaccine is now routinely given as part of childhood immunizations. It is intended to prevent chickenpox as well as latent VZV and so decrease the number of people who get shingles later in life. There is also now a Herpes zoster vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in people 50 and older who have had chickenpox called Zostavax®, which is intended to decrease the risk of developing shingles and the risk of postherpetic neuralgia. While there is no guarantee that someone who receives either of these vaccines will not get chickenpox or shingles, they reduce the severity of the disease and the likelihood of complications for someone who does get either of these infections.

Those who do get shingles are treated with antiviral medications to decrease symptom severity and shorten the duration of the illness. Treatment may also reduce the risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia and reduce its duration. Antivirals are most effective when started within three days of rash development.

Topical therapies and pain medications may be used to relieve the symptoms associated with shingles. Those who have shingles with eye, ear, or central nervous system complications may need to consult with specialists.

Those with severely weakened immune systems may sometimes be given zoster immune globulin, as an external source of VZV antibodies, to lessen the severity of the condition.

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