How Effective Is Acyclovir for Shingles?

Ken Black

Using Acyclovir for treatment of shingles has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other health agencies around the world. The drug is generally considered to be very effective at reducing the pain and duration of shingles, but it is not entirely effective in all cases. Using Acyclovir for shingles should begin as soon as the symptoms are noticed because effectiveness quickly diminishes after 72 hours from the onset of symptoms. In some cases, Acyclovir may be more effective in treating older individuals, meaning those over the age of 60, than younger patients.

Most people with shingles focus on finding treatment for the extreme pain caused by the condition.
Most people with shingles focus on finding treatment for the extreme pain caused by the condition.

The administration of Acyclovir for shingles is one of the most studied treatments in the world for the disease. While other variations of anti-viral drugs have come along that have taken some of its popularity away, the drug is still considered a good standard to use. It can be administered both intravenously and orally. In order to be most effective, the drug must be administered to the patient several times a day, which includes up to five times a day for oral administration, and three times for intravenous administration.

Doctors and pharmacists can offer specific recommendations to make Acyclovir as effective as possible.
Doctors and pharmacists can offer specific recommendations to make Acyclovir as effective as possible.

The main benefit of using Acyclovir for shingles is that it reduces the pain associated with the illness. This benefit appears to be something that elderly patients have noticed more than younger patients. That being said, the severity of pain is generally greater for elderly patients suffering from shingles. Therefore, this might explain why that particular age group reported less pain with the drug treatment.

Shingles can cause skin infections, as well as vision loss.
Shingles can cause skin infections, as well as vision loss.

One of the other benefits of Acyclovir for shingles is that it reduces the overall duration of the outbreak. The drug accomplishes this mainly by preventing the growth of new lesions, which would then need to run their course before clearing up. Fewer lesions may also be one of the reasons why there is less pain experienced when taking the drug.

Acyclovir is often effective in treating individuals over the age of 60.
Acyclovir is often effective in treating individuals over the age of 60.

Studies also indicate that taking Acyclovir for shingles, along with another type of medication, could even be more effective. If a corticosteroid is administered along with Acyclovir, the pain patients report can be reduced substantially. Some studies have reported conflicting results in the use of corticosteroids alone to treat shingles.

The pain of shingles is generally worse for elderly individuals.
The pain of shingles is generally worse for elderly individuals.

While the benefits of Acyclovir to fight shingles outbreaks are generally clear, the drug can be inconvenient and have side effects. Acyclovir must be administered at least three times a day, and sometimes as many as five times in a 24-hour period. The risks of Acyclovir include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and headaches among others. If the symptoms persist, patients should contact their doctors to see if they should continue taking the medication.

Shingles can manifest itself in people of all ages.
Shingles can manifest itself in people of all ages.
The risks of Acyclovir include nausea.
The risks of Acyclovir include nausea.

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Discussion Comments

Grivusangel

I have known several people who suffered with shingles and their doctors told them, without exception, that the farther under the 24-hour mark they were when seeking treatment for an outbreak, the better. My mom's doctor told her if someone thinks they have shingles, to get in under the 12-hour mark if possible, because Acyclovir is really at its best in that time frame.

My mother went to urgent care as soon as she woke up and felt the first lesion. She knew what it was. Her doctor said if everyone came on in when they first had symptoms, they would feel much better, much sooner.

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