August 21, 2010 Doctor Lawrence Jaeger treats patients with Shingles at Advanced Dermatology Associates in New York City Shingles are quite painful and last for 3-5 weeks, on average. Unfortunately, the actual shingles and the accompanying symptoms aren’t the only worries that you may have while dealing with shingles. As your health care provider or dermatologist, such as Dr. Lawrence Jaeger of New York, can explain, shingles can also lead to other complications. There are two major complications that can result from shingles. One is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) which includes continuous, chronic pain that the person feels even after the skin lesions have healed. You have an increased risk of getting PHN if you had severe pain during the active shingles, if you have sensory impairment, or if you are elderly. It is possible that if the shingles are treated early, it may prevent PHN. Pain relief medications, steroid treatments and other medicines may also help with the pain and inflammation. A second common side effect of shingles is a bacterial infection on the skin where the lesions were located. This infection can lead to superficial gangrene and scarring. If the infection is close to the eyes, you can develop a secondary bacterial infection as well or a corneal opacification. Lawrence Jaeger notes there is no cure for shingles, but treatment may shorten the length of illness and prevent complications. Treatment options include: Antiviral medicines to reduce the pain and duration of shingles. Pain medicines, antidepressants, and topical creams to relieve long-term pain. Initial treatment As soon as you are diagnosed with shingles, your doctor probably will start treatment with antiviral medicines. If you begin medicines within the first 3 days of seeing the shingles rash camera.gif, you have a lower chance of having later problems, such as postherpetic neuralgia. According to Doctor Lawrence Jaeger the most common treatments for shingles include: Antiviral medicines, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir, to reduce the pain and the duration of shingles. Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to help reduce pain during an attack of shingles. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Topical antibiotics, applied directly to the skin, to stop infection of the blisters. For severe cases of shingles, some doctors may have their patients use corticosteroids along with antiviral medicines. But corticosteroids are not used very often for shingles. This is because studies show that taking a corticosteroid along with an antiviral medicine doesn’t help any more than just taking an antiviral medicine by itself.