Herpes zoster is an infectious disease that causes a skin rash that looks like blisters. The disease is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is also the causative agent of chickenpox. If you have previously had chickenpox, then throughout your life you can get sick with herpes zoster. There is no specific treatment for herpes zoster, but your doctor may prescribe medications to treat the symptoms of the disease.
Method 1 of 2: How to Treat a Disease
Step 1. It is important to notice the symptoms of herpes zoster in time
First, painful sensations, itching, burning, numbness or tingling sensations occur, which persist for 1-5 days. Then a rash appears on the skin. In people with normal immunity, the rash is usually located on only one side of the body or face, in a streak pattern. If a person's immune system is weakened, the rash can spread throughout the body.
- In addition, there may be fever, headache, chills, sensitivity to light, weakness, indigestion.
- The rash transforms into blisters, which dry out and become crusted after 7-10 days. It usually lasts 2 to 6 weeks.
Step 2. See your doctor
Talk to your doctor as soon as you notice a rash. It is best to do this no later than three days later, if the rash appears on the face, then even earlier. The doctor will be able to diagnose and prescribe treatment. The sooner you begin to heal, the faster the bubbles dry out and the painful sensations decrease.
- Herpes zoster is treated at home. Hospitalization may be required only as a last resort.
- Typically, herpes zoster only occurs once in a lifetime. However, a relapse of the disease is possible more than 2-3 times.
Step 3. Try non-drug products
Wear loose-fitting clothing made from natural fabrics, get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods. To relieve itching, take an oatmeal bath and apply Calamine Lotion to your body.
- Wear silk or cotton, and avoid acrylic and wool.
- Take a bath with a little crushed or colloidal oatmeal, or use a special oatmeal bath. This will help soothe itchy skin.
- After the bath, apply Calamine Lotion to damp skin.
Step 4. Deal with stress
Stress can make the soreness worse. Try to distract yourself from the pain by doing something that gives you pleasure. Read, listen to music, spend time with people close to you. Learn to cope with stress, as it can exacerbate the disease.
- Meditation and deep breathing techniques can help you deal with the pain and stress associated with your illness.
- Learn to meditate to distract yourself from unpleasant thoughts. You can simply repeat to yourself a phrase or word that calms you down.
- May also try meditating through visualization. First you need to create a mental image of a place where you feel good and calm, and then focus on this image. When visualizing, it is important not only to see this place, but also to hear sounds and smells. If possible, use the help of a trainer.
- Tai chi and yoga are also good at fighting stress. Both of these directions practice both special poses and deep breathing.
Step 5. Take antiviral drugs
As a treatment for herpes zoster, your doctor will likely prescribe valacyclovir (Valtrex), acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or a similar drug. Be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of your prescribed drug and how it will interact with other medicines you are taking.
The sooner you start taking these drugs, the more effective they will be. That is why it is important to see a doctor as soon as a rash appears on the skin
Step 6. Take pain relievers
Typically, with herpes zoster, the pain does not last long, but it can be very severe. Based on the severity of the pain and your medical history, your doctor may prescribe strong codeine medications as well as long-acting medications such as anticonvulsants.
- Your doctor may prescribe pain medication for you. For example, lidocaine in the form of an ointment, gel, spray, or skin patch.
- The doctor may also prescribe injections of corticosteroids or local anesthetics, which are effective in relieving pain.
- Apply a capsacin ointment containing chili pepper as the main active ingredient directly to the rash. The ointment has a pronounced analgesic effect.
Step 7. Cleanse and cool itchy skin
For herpes zoster, take a cool bath regularly or apply a cold compress to the area where the blisters and sores have formed. Wash the area with cool water and mild soap to prevent secondary infection and irritation.
- Dove, Oil of Olay, or any other mild soap will work.
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt in 1 liter of cold water and wipe the area where the rash appears. The saline solution will help soothe the itching.
Method 2 of 2: How to deal with complications
Step 1. It is important to recognize the symptoms of PHN in time
One in five cases of herpes zoster is associated with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN is manifested by severe pain in the place where the rash was previously. Symptoms of PHN can last from several weeks to several months. In rare cases, symptoms persist for years.
- Postherpetic neuralgia often develops in older people.
- A symptom of PHN can be severe pain from any touch of the skin. For example, if the wind touches the skin, any clothes or people.
- If you do not start treatment for herpes zoster on time, the likelihood that you will develop PHN increases.
Step 2. Pay attention to other possible complications
PHN is the most common complication of herpes zoster, but there may be others. Pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, hearing problems, or even death may develop. Less common complications such as bacterial skin infection, local muscle weakness, scarring.
Step 3. Consult your doctor
If you think that in your case, herpes zoster has given complications, be it PHN or any others, be sure to consult a doctor. The doctor will prescribe the necessary treatment, primarily aimed at combating chronic pain.
- Your doctor will likely prescribe a local pain reliever such as lidocaine; analgesics such as oxycodone; anticonvulsants such as gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica). The doctor may also recommend that you seek the help of a psychotherapist.
- If a person has to deal with chronic pain for a long time, he may become depressed or other psycho-emotional problems may appear. In this case, your doctor will prescribe antidepressants or recommend cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can include various relaxation techniques or hypnosis that are effective in managing chronic pain.
Step 4. Get the herpes zoster vaccine
People who have reached the age of 60 or older must be vaccinated against herpes zoster, even if they have already had it. Vaccination is carried out in medical institutions.
- Find out if your health insurance can cover the herpes zoster vaccine.
- The vaccine should only be given after the rash has cleared. Talk to your doctor about when is the best time to get vaccinated.
Step 5. Monitor your health
Stress, poor diet, overwork, and a weakened immune system can flare up herpes zoster at any time. While vaccinations are the only effective way to prevent herpes zoster, good health will help you keep the disease from getting worse. If you do get sick, it will be easier for a strong body to cope with the infection.
- Eat a balanced diet high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Exercise regularly and get enough rest.
- Meet people who are struggling with herpes zoster just like you. In fact, there are a lot of such people. For example, in the United States, about 1 million people fall ill with herpes zoster annually. Almost 50 percent of them are people over 60 years old. Search online for support groups in your area.
- Do not scratch skin rashes. From this, the pain will only intensify, and the disease will be more severe.
- Avoid contact with people who have not had chickenpox and have not been vaccinated against it. Although herpes zoster is not contagious, an infected person can infect children and adults with chickenpox who have not had it or have been vaccinated against it.