Antiviral Drugs for Shingles Treatment: Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

There is no cure for shingles, but fortunately there are medications for shingles treatment. Shingles is an illness caused by the herpes zoster virus, similar to herpes varicella that causes chicken pox. Shingles results from the reactivation of the herpes zoster virus from a case of the chicken pox. The virus goes dormant and stays in the nerve cells close to the spine, and becomes active in the case of stress, severe illness or a compromised immune system.

Typically seen in the elderly, shingles can occur in anyone at risk, and without shingles treatment, can be a long and painful experience. Characterized by a burning pain and subsequent rash, shingles treatment is most effective when taken within 72 hours of symptoms.

The Preferred Medication for Shingles Treatment

Valacyclovir, or Valtrex, is prescribed most often for shingles treatment, as well as genital herpes and cold sores. It works by halting the viruses that cause these conditions, keeping them from replicating and infecting healthy cells in the body. It is most effective when taken in the early stages of development, but even if taken later in the course of the illness, it can reduce the outbreak and the incidence of pain and rashes. Valtrex is an oral medication, and in the course of shingles treatment, is usually taken three times a day at regular intervals.

Side Effects of Valacyclovir

Any medication carries with its use the risk of side effects, and Valtrex is no exception. It is important to inform the doctor prescribing valacyclovir for shingles treatment of any allergies and of any and all medications and nutritional supplements being taken, even if over-the-counter. The doctor should also be informed of any present or past liver or kidney disease or problems with the immune system, including HIV/AIDS. This medication is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women.

Side effects can include gastrointestinal distress such as an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some patients have reported headache, drowsiness and confusion. More serious side effects reported are decreased kidney or liver function, hallucinations and photosensitivity, although these side effects are rare.

The doctor should be consulted immediately if side effects such as a rash and itching, yellowness of the skin or the eyes, fever or blood in the urine occurs, as they can signal a more serious problem with the medication.

Valacyclovir is very effective in shingles treatment, especially when implemented immediately upon recognition of the signs of shingles. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint shingles in the early stages, as it presents initially as a burning pain in one side of the body up to two weeks or more before a rash erupts. Therefore, it is imperative to contact a doctor if a burning pain is experienced, in order to start the medication as soon as possible for the best results.

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