Acyclovir is among the most commonly recommended prescription medications for shingles treatment. Shingles or herpes zoster infection is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This virus is also responsible for causing chickenpox and various others forms of herpes infections.
Shingles surfaces in the form of a severe viral rash of the skin. This virus can survive in the human body for many years before precipitating symptoms of shingles. The resulting rash can be very painful and cannot be resolved with over-the-counter medications. Shingles is more common in the elderly. Most cases of shingles rash are among people who are above the age of 55.
Acyclovir is an anti-viral medication that can be used at various stages of shingles, or Herpes Zoster, infection. The common, branded form of Acyclovir is Zovirax that is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Zovirax is used to treat various types of herpes infections. This includes Herpes Simplex 1 or oral herpes, Herpes Simplex 2 or genital herpes and Herpes Zoster (shingles).
Role of Acyclovir in Shingles Treatment
Acyclovir has the ability to slow the progression of the herpes virus. Please note that it cannot completely eliminate or destroy the herpes virus. It merely subdues the infection so that the natural immune system of the patient gets a better chance of alleviating the symptoms. Further, the strengthening of the immune system during an Acyclovir regimen ensures that the body is able to develop some antibodies which help to prevent future outbreaks of shingles.
Acyclovir is able to dampen the activity of the virus because it is readily absorbed by the virus. The virus uses an active form of acyclovir for manufacturing its DNA. The DNA replication is critical for the replication of viral genes and proliferation of the virus. Incorporating acyclovir during this phase disrupts the DNA production and the virally-infected cells gradually lose their potency.
Acyclovir has appreciable pain-relieving properties too. Acyclovir is helpful for reducing the painful sores or blisters that are commonly associated with shingles. This is significant for shingles patients since the rash often leads to the formation of painful lesions. Pain along the nerve roots can be very severe among such individuals, and it cannot be cured by using topical ointments, sprays and painkillers.
Acyclovir should be administered only under professional medical advice. Acyclovir is available in the form of capsules, tablets, suspensions and injections. Among the elderly, the form of Acyclovir chosen often depends upon the overall health status of the patient and careful assessment of possible contradictions since this age-group is more likely to be using other, long-term medications. Similarly, the strength of dosage is based upon the intensity of symptoms and medical history of the patient.
Acyclovir can be consumed before or after meals. The final decision is that of the prescribing authority. It is commonly recommended that patients on Acyclovir should consume lots of water to ensure that their kidneys are not affected.
Acyclovir should be consumed strictly according to the prescription plan. It is often administered for a long time, even after the symptoms of shingles have disappeared. This is vital since relapse is a major problem in shingles treatment. The starting dosage of Acyclovir is usually higher since the aggressively-spreading infection needs to be arrested.