Valtrex for shingles: Uses, dosage, side effects

Valtrex for shingles
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mehvish Khan

Key Takeaways

  • Following the recommended treatment plan ensures effective control of the herpes zoster virus.
  • Valtrex does not cure shingles; instead, it inhibits virus growth.
  • Completing the entire course is necessary for long-term relief and reducing the risk of future shingles outbreaks.

Overview

Valtrex, also known as Valacyclovir, has promising results in the treatment of shingles symptoms. This antiviral medication works by preventing the herpes zoster virus, which causes shingles, from growing and replicating. When initiated early, typically within the first 72 hours of symptom onset, Valtrex effectively reduces the severity and duration of shingles. It actively combats the virus, relieving discomfort, pain, and itching associated with this viral infection.

How does Valtrex work for shingles?

Valtrex, or Valacyclovir, is a potent antiviral medication used to manage shingles caused by the herpes zoster virus. It primarily works to inhibit the growth of the virus. It provides relief from symptoms and promotes a faster recovery. While Valtrex does not eliminate the virus, it significantly reduces the severity and duration of shingles outbreaks.

Shingles develop when the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox in children, reactivates. Even after the symptoms of chickenpox have subsided, the virus can still hide in nerve tissues. Later in life, the virus can reappear as shingles when immunity is weak or when stress levels are high. The noticeable symptom is a painful, blistering rash that is usually limited to one side of the body.

Valtrex intervenes by actively slowing down the growth of the herpes zoster virus. This gives the immune system a chance to fight back. Shingles pain and itching are effectively reduced by the active intervention. It is essential to note that Valtrex does not cure shingles; rather, it helps the sores heal faster.

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When to use Valtrex for Shingles?

Early intervention with Valtrex makes all the difference in effectively managing shingles. You should take Valtrex when you experience the initial symptoms of shingles, such as swelling, rash, and pain in a specific area. 

Starting treatment within the first 48-72 hours improves treatment efficacy. You should stay ahead of the herpes zoster virus by inhibiting its growth and replication as soon as the first rash appears. This promotes a faster recovery and reduces the severity and duration of the shingles outbreak.

Dosage

Your doctor will determine the best Valtrex dosage for you based on the severity of your shingles. The importance of following their instructions precisely cannot be over-emphasized. Do not deviate from your prescribed treatment schedule.

For shingles, the usual recommendation is to take Valtrex by mouth two to three times a day for a specific period. Take Valtrex at the same time every day to maintain a consistent dosage in the blood.

What should you do if you miss a Valtrex dose?

In most cases, taking a missed Valtrex dose as soon as you remember is the best course of action. If your next dose is almost due, though, it is better to forego the one you missed and continue taking the medication as prescribed. Taking two doses at once is not advisable to make up for a missed dose.

Duration of treatment

Valtrex treatment for shingles usually lasts for 7 to 10 days. How fast shingles symptoms go away after taking Valtrex depends on the severity of the condition and how the body reacts to it. Many people notice a significant improvement in discomfort, pain, and itching within 2-3 days of treatment.

You should complete the full prescribed course of Valtrex, even if your symptoms improve early. A complete course is necessary for adequate control of the virus and also to avoid drug resistance.

Can Valtrex prevent shingles recurrence?

Valtrex helps reduce the severity and duration of shingles symptoms, but its ability to prevent their recurrence is not absolute. Valtrex inhibits the herpes zoster virus growth and replication.

Recurrence is still possible, especially in people with compromised immune systems or other risk factors.

The virus may persist in the body even after the antiviral medication has been used to treat the initial episode. Stress, aging, or underlying health conditions may contribute to its reactivation. Sometimes, doctors may prescribe long-term therapy with Valtrex to suppress the virus.

When should I see a doctor?

If you suspect you have shingles, you must see a doctor promptly for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Noticeable symptoms of shingles include pain on one side of the body, distinctive rash, swelling, blisters, and severe pain or discomfort.

People with conditions like HIV or cancer or those who have undergone organ or bone marrow transplants may experience a more extensive shingles infection that could spread across both sides of the body.

Early treatment with antiviral medications can expedite healing and decrease the risk of complications, including postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which may lead to persistent nerve pain for months or even years.

Talk to a doctor now to determine the best Valtrex dosage and treatment plan tailored to your needs.

FAQs about Valtrex for shingles

Does Valtrex make you gain weight?

There is no evidence to suggest that Valtrex causes weight gain. Some of the most common side effects of taking Valtrex include nausea, stomach pain, dizziness, and headaches.

During pregnancy or breastfeeding, can we take Valtrex for shingles?

Valtrex comes under the Pregnancy Category B classification from the FDA. So, Pregnant women should only be given Valtrex if the drug’s advantages are considered to be greater than the risks to the developing baby.

Is Valtrex suitable for children with shingles?

Valtrex is suitable for children with shingles, but the dosage and duration of treatment may vary depending on the child’s age and weight. Please follow the exact instructions of treatment as directed by a healthcare professional for the best results.

How long do shingles last with Valacyclovir?

Valacyclovir can help shorten the duration of shingles if taken early. Symptoms show improvement within a few days. It’s important to complete the full prescribed course for effective management and reduced risk of recurrence.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Bean, Bonnie, Dorothee Aeppli, and Henry H. Balfour Jr. “Acyclovir in shingles.” Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 12.suppl_B (1983): 123-127.
  • Stankus, Seth John, Michael Dlugopolski, and Deborah Packer. “Management of herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia.” American family physician 61.8 (2000): 2437-2444.
  • Sampathkumar, Priya, Lisa A. Drage, and David P. Martin. “Herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Vol. 84. No. 3. Elsevier, 2009.
  • Cohen, Kenneth R., et al. “Presentation and management of herpes zoster (shingles) in the geriatric population.” Pharmacy and Therapeutics 38.4 (2013): 217.

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