Pain and itching are two of the most common discomfort causing complaints associated with the shingles disease. In this detailed article on both these aspects, we’ll throw some light on the effective treatment methods to eliminate these problems.
Shingles and itching
The constant itching caused as a result of shingles can be tackled using certain over-the-counter (OTC) medications as well as home remedies. Let’s go over the OTC medicines first:
Over the counter anti-itch topical remedies for shingles
Hydrocortisone cream – You can make use of over-the-counter calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to obtain instant relief from the itching caused by shingles. Adding some useful oils such as lavender to the cream can also help. Lavender has excellent anti-viral properties and can significantly alleviate the discomfort caused by the itchiness. When picking up an anti-itching over-the-counter cream specifically for the purpose of shingles itchiness, pick up one that has at least 1% hydrocortisone in it (such as Cortaid Maximum Strength or Aveeno Optimum Power creams). In case your itching problem has turned quite bad, using an oral antihistamine like Benadryl may also help.
Terrasil – This is a completely natural non-prescription anti-itch cream that consists of salve containing ingredients capable of killing the varicella-zoster virus and providing immediate relief from the shingles itching. Terrasil’s jojoba oil moisturizes and soothes the skin, organic beeswax reduces the redness and inflammation, the essential oils get rid of the toxins and the patented germ-killing mineral blend removes the varicella virus effectively, thus reducing the duration and intensity of the shingles symptoms.
MagniLife Shingles Recovery Cream – Created with homoeopathic ingredients and all natural herbs, this particular skin cream has a quick action and deep penetration formula which helps calm down the nerve endings and provides instant relief from the inflammation, itching and pain due to shingles problem. The tea tree oil and comfrey extract contained in it soothes as well as heals the skin.
Peaceful Mountain Shinglederm Rescue Plus Cream – Again a completely all natural formulation, this gel consists of herbs that have been in use for their pain relieving and anti-viral properties for several centuries now. Every use of this cream can deliver significant relief from the shingles itch for at least 4 hours’ time. Its main constituents are lavender, willow, arnica and St John’s Wort. St John’s Wort is known to have tremendous anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving and anti-viral properties. It soothes nerve pain and is also used internally in its tincture form.
Iren’s Secret Shingles Cream – An all-natural topical formulation, Iren’s Secret Shingles cream helps relieving the inflammation, itching, pain and discomfort caused due to the shingles problem. It is believed to stimulate the blood circulation, thereby promoting quick healing without causing any harmful side effects. You can also continue using this cream to prevent future shingles attacks in the affected area, or any area particularly vulnerable to the shingles flare-ups.
Anti-itch home remedies for shingles
Apart from using the above detailed over-the-counter topical solutions, you can even make use of the following home remedies to get relief from the shingles itching:
Aloe vera – If there’s an aloe vera plant in your garden or your home, you can cut out a leaf from it and apply its liquid extract directly onto the affected skin. The milky liquid of the aloe vera leaves provides instant relief from the shingles itch. As an alternative you can even buy some good quality over-the-counter aloe vera gel. However, make sure that it is 100% pure.
Epsom salt paste – You can make a paste from some Epsom salt mixed into water and use it as an effective remedy to dry out the shingles rashes and blisters. It also helps in soothing the inflammation and must be applied directly onto the affected area.
Vinegar and honey – A quick home solution for the shingles itch is the vinegar and honey paste. It can be made quickly and easily from these two ingredients present in almost everyone’s pantry. All you need to do is mix the two of them together and dab the resulting paste gently onto the shingles sores.
Brew some tea – You can even brew some lemon balm tea (a herb belonging to the mint family) to get relief from the shingles itch. Some European studies have proved its capability of fighting the herpes zoster virus. All you need to do is boil two teaspoons of dried lemon balm in one teacup of water. Then dip a cotton ball into this solution and apply it directly onto the shingles affected region. You can even bolster this brew by putting some rose oil or mints (spearmint or peppermint) into it.
Baking powder – Make a quick paste from baking powder and water and apply it onto the affected skin surface. This paste can dry out the blisters and also soothe the itching. Make sure that when making this paste you add enough amount of water to the dry out the baking powder.
Shingles and pain
As we all know that shingles presents itself in the form of a painful and blistering rash, with the pain often preceding the rash formation. You must get in touch with a qualified doctor as soon as you witness its onset. Starting some anti-viral medications during the first 72 hours of the infection can prove very helpful in terms of the overall shingles treatment and the pain caused by it.
There are basically two types of pain associated with the shingles infection. First is the initial pain that occurs before and during the rash formation and then there is the pain that may persist for a long time even after the shingles rash is cured. The latter occurs only in 20% of shingles patients and such complication is referred to as postherpetic neuralgia or PHN.
Both types of pain can range anywhere from mild to severe levels and you can use different treatment methods to ease their discomfort.
Furthermore, people experience the shingles pain in several different ways. A large majority of them describe it as a tingling, itching, stinging or burning sensation.
In milder form, this pain feels more like an itch than pain per se. However, when severe, even a gentle breeze or the slight brush of a pillow can trigger its unbearable variant. Talking about the severe PHN cases, the pain can get so bad that it can lead to depression, weight loss and insomnia.
How to eliminate shingles pain?
Your doctor is most likely to prescribe some anti-viral medications like famvir (famciclovir or famcyclovir), valtrex (valaciclovir or valacyclovir) or zovirax (acyclovir or acyclovir) as soon as you’re diagnosed with the shingles infection. Starting this treatment during the earliest stages of shingles can shorten the disease’s duration and severity, apart from providing considerable relief from the pain caused by it. Such early diagnosis of the shingles infection is even more critical because anti-viral medicines work best if they’re administered inside the first 3 days (72 hours) of the development of shingles rash. Apart from the above-mentioned anti-viral medicines, the doctor may also recommend the below mentioned treatment methods for reducing the shingles pain:
Over-the-counter pain medicines – You can consume pain relieving medicines like ibuprofen (motrin and the likes) or acetaminophen (tylenol and the likes) to help control the pain caused due to shingles. These are basically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also referred to as NSAIDs. Not only do they help in reducing the swelling caused due to shingles, but also provide tremendous pain relief. Furthermore, it has been found that the painful symptoms associated with shingles condition respond pretty well to such NSAIDs. You must ideally opt for regular or lower strength tablets as the extra strength ones can harm the stomach lining and lead to ulcer formation.
Prescription medications for pain – In the event that your pain is quite severe, the doctor may prescribe some specific types of pain medication/s suiting your needs.
Cool compresses – Application of cool compresses to the areas having rash development can help in easing the shingles itching and pain.
Medicated lotions or creams – There are lotions available for the shingles problem that are formulated specifically for soothing the skin and reducing the itching sensation caused due to it. As also mentioned earlier, Hydrocortisone cream can significantly bring down the shingles swelling and also prove effective in alleviating the itchy sensation. Lookout for the creams that have at least 1% hydrocortisone content. You can even opt for calamine lotion (caladryl) or cortaid cream to treat the shingles rash. At core, hydrocortisone is nothing but a topical corticosteroid which has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, you can also make use of antiseptic agents such as benzoyl to bring down the discomfort and irritation associated with the shingles rashes. Just dab some benzoin gum directly onto the blisters (which haven’t burst yet) and you can be assured of no leftover scars when the skin clears away.
Steroids – Not prescribed by a lot of doctors, steroid-based medications can help significantly in relieving severe shingles pain and can also reduce the risk of shingles assuming the shape of postherpetic neuralgia.
Antihistamines – Whenever the body experiences development of shingles rash, it releases histamines as a direct response to the viral infection. Studies have revealed that decreasing the histamine production during the shingles infection can help majorly in alleviating the itchiness. This can be done by consumption of antihistamine medications such as Zyrtec or Benadryl either topically or orally.
Alcohol – You can even use alcohol to decrease the shingles caused pain. This can be done by crushing two aspirin tablets and then mixing their powdered form with two tablespoons of alcohol. Apply this alcohol and aspirin paste directly onto the painful area and you’ll soon feel the discomfort going away.
Mint leaves – Make a paste from three to four mint leaves and apply it directly onto the shingles affected area. Let it sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes and then wash off the area properly. Doing this regularly can bring a lot of relief from shingles pain.
St Johns Wort oil – Applying St Johns Wort oil topically on the band of shingles blisters can prove very effective in controlling the shingles pain. St John’s Wort oil has excellent anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Apply it at least two to three times per day and you’ll slowly see the pain going away. This oil also nourishes the affected skin area.
Oatmeal bath – Shingles pain can also be relieved by taking an oatmeal bath instead of a regular hot one. It helps in reducing the pain, inflammation and itching caused due to shingles rash. Whenever you take such bath you’ll feel an excellent soothing sensation in your skin and all the burning sensation will start going away. As an alternative, you can even make a paste from uncooked oatmeal by adding a small amount of water to it. Apply this directly onto the shingles blisters. Doing so will reduce the irritation and itchiness caused by the shingles rashes and blisters.
If your shingles pain is mainly due to the postherpetic neuralgia condition, the doctor may recommend the following treatment options to ease it off:
Lidocaine patch – Application of a patch consisting of lidocaine (Lidoderm) can help significantly in managing pain caused due to PHN.
Capsaicin cream – Pain caused due to postherpetic neuralgia can also be reduced by using a capsaicin-based cream such as zostrix, capsin etc.
Opioid medications – Strong prescription pain medicines that fall in the opioids category like morphine or oxycodone are also given in specific cases where the pain is extreme. These are known to help quite well in managing such pain.
Anticonvulsant medications – PHN patients are also regularly given anticonvulsant medicines like gabapentin (gabarone or neurotin) to manage pain caused due to the postherpetic neuralgia.
Antidepressant medications – There is enough scientific evidence to prove that tricyclic antidepressants can contribute significantly in managing pain in people suffering from postherpetic neuralgia.
Alternative pain management techniques – A lot of patients opt for alternative pain management methods to relieve the postherpetic neuralgia related pain. Some of the popular techniques that fall in this category are acupuncture, behavior modification, electrical stimulation, biofeedback and relaxation exercises like meditation and yoga.