Prednisone, a corticosteroid, is one of the primary drugs used in the management of shingles, also known as herpes zoster. When combined with antiviral treatment, prednisone relieves pain and nerve damage and reduces one's chances of developing postherpetic neuralgia, a condition in which pain lasts after the shingles rash has cleared up.
Prednisone is used alongside antiviral drugs (acyclovir, valacyclovir or famciclovir) as the primary treatment for shingles. According to Seth John Stankus et al., prednisone is a given in a high dose and then increasingly lower doses as a shingles outbreak progresses; prednisone treatment continues for longer than antiviral treatment.
One of the primary benefits of this combined treatment is the relief of pain. Pain, which can be quite severe in shingles, occurs along the path of the nerve affected by the virus (vericella zoster virus,or VZV) that causes shingles.
Swelling and Nerve Damage
The swelling caused by shingles can lead to nerve damage. The administration of prednisone reduces the swelling and the chances of long-lasting damage.
Stankus et al. report that the use of prednisone may reduce an individual's chances of developing postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). This is beneficial because the pain of PHN can be quite severe and difficult to manage; for some people, it lasts for years.
Along with prednisone and antiviral drugs, shingles is managed with painkillers, topical creams for relief and lidocaine patches. The use of prednisone may continue after shingles clears up if PHN occurs.