Shingles is an intensely painful viral condition that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, a member of the herpes virus family and the same virus that causes chickenpox. The Mayo Clinic relays that when someone is exposed to this virus, it can travel to the nerve cells called dorsal root ganglia, which transmit information from the skin to the brain. The varicella virus can lay dormant in these nerves for a lifetime, but it can become activated again if the immune system is weakened and for other reasons. The varicella virus spreads along the nerves, causing painful skin lesions. Several skin ointments help relieve pain, heal blisters and prevent viral infection of shingles.
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Zovirax is a brand name for a prescription ointment cream that contains the anti-viral medication acyclovir. This medicated ointment is commonly used to treat genital herpes and cold sores in the mouth. However, it is also effective at speeding the healing of skin lesions due to shingles and helping to prevent the spread of the varicella virus through oozing or weeping skin sores. RxList.com recommends that an ample amount of the Zovirax ointment be used to cover all lesions—avoiding the eye area—approximately every three hours up to six times a day for seven days. A rubber glove should be worn to prevent transfer of the virus to other areas of the body or other people.
Licrogel is a gel or cream ointment that contains licorice root extract, a natural plant derivative with anti-viral properties. It is available in capsule, extract and ointment form and is used for the treatment shingles skin lesions and other viral skin conditions. The website MotherNature.com mentions that licorice root ointment can be applied directly to painful shingles skin sores. It is thought to help contain the varicella virus and prevent the infection from spreading to other areas and other people. Other brand name ointments containing licorice root include Licroderm.
Several medicinal ointments for treating shingle pain and lesions contain capsaicin, a substance derived from hot peppers. MotherNature.com underlines that these ointments cannot be used on open skin lesions or sores but are very effective at reducing the residual postherpetic neuralgia or nerve pain after shingles appears to have cleared up. Capsaicin ointment provides relief from pain and irritation by stimulating and diminishing nerve transmitters that send pain signals from the skin to the brain. Only a small amount of this ointment is recommended and it can be used up to four times a day.