It starts like a bad cold or the flu. You’ve got a headache, you feel run down and your skin is overly sensitive. Before long, that sensitivity turns into sharp pain, and within a couple of days you’ve got a rash and blisters. The pain intensifies – it feels like you’ve got a bad burn – and it only gets worse when you take a shower, get dressed or brush against your sheets at night. This is how pain with shingles starts, and it can last months or even years.
More than a million Americans suffer excruciating shingles pain every year, primarily because shingles treatments can be expensive for people who don’t have insurance. In fact, in many places you can pay as much as $180 out-of-pocket for a week’s supply of valacyclovir, an antiviral drug used to treat shingles.
Although your immune system eventually fought off the chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus left some troops behind.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. When you use the AriaRx card at your local pharmacy, you can cut the price of shingles treatments in half. Being proactive about your condition is important, because the sooner you start to treat pain from shingles, the lower your risk of complications that can make this miserable disease even worse.
How Do You Get Shingles?
Your grade-school battle with chickenpox is the key to understanding what shingles is. We all remember that unpleasant rite of passage – scratching was strictly forbidden, calamine lotion didn’t work as well as promised and sleep was hard to come by. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel: the knowledge that chickenpox would never, ever happen again. Parents, relatives, doctors and teachers all told us this was a one-time deal.
This story calmed us enough to keep the scratch-proof mitts on, but it wasn’t the whole story. Although your immune system eventually fought off the chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus left some troops behind. Deep inside your nervous system, these remnant viral particles would be able to wait quietly for decades, undetected.
For 70% of adults in America, the second-wave attack that we call shingles never comes, but for the other 30%, the virus returns with a vengeance years later. No one is sure what causes the varicella zoster virus to reactivate. Usually, it occurs when a person’s immune system is already taxed, and that’s why you’re more likely to get shingles as you age or when you’re stressed because of anxiety, injury or immunosuppressive drugs. If the virus does reawaken, it replicates and begins to spreads along the nerves, and that’s when the trouble starts.
What is Life With Shingles Pain Like?
Shingles sneaks up you. The infection usually begins with vague symptoms, such as a headache, fatigue, chills and aches. An increased sensitivity to touch – usually along a strip of skin on one side of your body – usually follows. That’s because the shingles virus uses the nerves running underneath this tender skin as a transport system. As varicella zoster travels along your nerves, your immune system tries to keep the virus in check, and that immune response is directly responsible for inflammation and pain from shingles. When it starts to happen, it’s time to think about shingles treatments.
Most shingles pain is characterized by:
This pain frequently starts before a rash is visible, but it becomes more intense over time. The characteristic shingles rash usually shows up between one day and two weeks after the first symptoms, and it’s centered over infected nerves. This is also where shingles pain is concentrated, and “patchwork pain” is a unique shingles symptom. Infected nerve endings and your body’s own immune response cause intense, piercing pain in these regions. Blisters also form over infected areas, and after several days they’ll start oozing pus before scabbing over. In most cases, the rash will heal in two weeks to a month.
What Shingles Complications Are Possible?
In order to avoid serious complications and further pain from shingles, you’ll need to respond immediately to certain symptoms. Call your doctor if a rash spreads over both sides of your body or if it appears to be delocalized. Shingles rashes also sometimes appear next to the eye, and an untreated infection in this case can result in permanent vision loss. Anyone over the age of 65 or with a compromised immune system (for example, anyone taking anti-cancer drugs) should seek help to help avoid secondary infections.
Shingles treatments can be pretty expensive if you don’t have insurance
The shingles virus is responsible for lasting nerve damage in about 20% of cases, causing a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). Even after the shingles infection stops, the damaged nerve continues to send signals without outside stimulus. This causes intense, recurring pain that can last indefinitely. Bouts of PHN are most common in elderly or immune-suppressed patients.
What Shingles Treatments are Available for Shingles Pain Relief?
You can increase your chances of limiting pain with shingles if you recognize and respond to symptoms early, because shingles treatments are most effective early in the course of infection. By acting quickly, you can also reduce the length of your shingles bout and decrease the chances of complications like PHN.
Shingles treatments can be pretty expensive if you don’t have insurance, but you’ll save yourself more than just a little discomfort if you sign up for a prescription discount card, like the AriaRx. When you use our card, you’ll have access to some of the most common drugs used to relieve shingles pain, even if you don’t have insurance or if yours won’t cover the treatment.
Here are five of the most common drug types used to relieve pain from shingles:
- Antivirals. This is the only class of drugs that will actively fight the varicella zoster virus while preventing it from causing pain. Because of this , antiviral drugs like valacyclovir and acyclovir work best in the early stages of a shingles infection – you should start an antiviral course within three days of developing a rash, and it’ll typically run for a week. Antivirals are commonly prescribed for patients over 50 or for those who are most at risk from complications like PHN.
- Anticonvulsants. No, you don’t have to worry about seizures if you’re dealing with pain from shingles, but anticonvulsants have a neat trick up their sleeve. They work by moderating excessive neural activity in the brain, and because shingles pain is caused by excessive signaling along infected nerves, anticonvulsants can also help reduce shingles pain. The key anticonvulsant used to battle pain with shingles is gabapentin, which is extremely effective but which can cause side effects like diarrhea, dizziness and headaches.
- Antidepressants. Neurotransmitters like serotonin play a part in depression, but they also affect the way the brain deals with pain signals. This means that an antidepressant that influences serotonin levels – amitriptyline, for example – can be prescribed in low doses to help regulate shingles pain. Constipation, loss of sleep and blurred vision are possible side effects of antidepressant use.
- Corticosteroids. In cases of PHN, steroids like prednisone help to reduce inflammation and the resulting pain. There is some debate over the effectiveness of corticosteroid use to combat shingles pain, and these medications often carry risks associated with dependency and immunosuppression, but prednisone remains one of the more common drug responses to PHN.
- Opioids. Weak opioid drugs like codeine can be used to block pain receptors in the brain for severe cases of PHN. But codeine is typically a measure of last resort for severe pain from shingles because drug dependence is a very real concern.
In 2006, the FDA approved a vaccine for shingles called Zostavax. This vaccine has been shown to cut shingles infection rates in half – it’s so effective that Zostavax is recommended for all adults age 60 and up (provided that they don’t suffer from a weakened immune system or an allergic reaction to the vaccine ingredients). And since recent studies have shown that shingles infections can recur, even those who’ve already suffered through shingles pain can benefit from vaccination. Zostavax is not covered under Medicare Part B, but those without Part D coverage can still benefit from discounts on Zostavax at the pharmacy window.
How Do You Get Shingles Medications and Shingles Treatments?
It’s great to have options to relieve shingles pain, but that relief isn’t cheap without medical insurance. Choosing between full-priced shingles treatments and ineffective home remedies is your classic “rock and a hard place” scenario, but if you face this decision, you can finally silence debilitating shingles pain with the Prescription Discount Card.
When insurance won’t cover the cost of your shingles treatments, this discount card gets you lower prices at the pharmacy window. Our pre-negotiated prices on shingles treatments ensure you’re getting the maximum discount possible. In fact, our cardholders save an average of 48% on the pain reliever gabapentin and over 40% off on antivirals like acyclovir and valacyclovir.
We’re able to give you the lowest available rates by minimizing our overhead and cutting out pointless fees. And in the few cases where your pharmacy’s everyday price is lower than the discount we’ve promised, you’ll simply pay the lower of the two. This “lower of” logic ensures that you’ll never be overcharged. But you’ll find that our Prescription Discount Card beats the pharmacy price more often than not: 80% of our cardholders get a discount of at least 50% on the everyday pharmacy cost of their medications. Savings can even be as high as 97%.
This Prescription Discount Card is risk-free. There are no fees, and we don’t require any of your personal information. We can’t sell your data because we don’t collect it. We’re also the only discount drug card that automatically donates to animal welfare groups across the United States through the humane/card program. These donations are funded by our proceeds from pharmacies, so you can be assured that you’re getting the maximum discount possible on your medications.
Start today, get your free discount from prescription.cards, and start saving immediately at over 63,000 pharmacies nationwide.