Zostrix Cream For Shingles: Uses And Side Effects

Did you know that about a third of the US population will get shingles at least once during their lifetime? More than 1.2 million people in the US get shingles yearly, and the risk is higher in adults 50 and older. But anyone can develop shingles, including younger people.¹ ²

The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox and shingles. The symptoms go away when you heal from chickenpox, but VZV remains dormant in your body. The virus may reactivate later in life, causing shingles.

While there's no cure for shingles, various treatments and remedies can shorten the illness's course and minimize symptoms. For instance, creams like Zostrix may help improve the pain caused by shingles.

But how does the Zostrix cream work for shingles? Here's everything you need to know.

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Shingles, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

How does Zostrix work?

Zostrix is the drug brand name for capsaicin, an active ingredient in chili peppers that produces a hot and spicy kick. In addition to being a famous ingredient in spicy dishes, capsaicin has medical uses. Of course, you can’t use Zostrix if you’re allergic to capsaicin.

The compound is in medicated creams and lotions that relieve joint and muscle pain. Topical capsaicin works on a protein on the pain nerve endings in the skin (TRPV1).

Doctors use Zostrix to treat diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage in people with diabetes. It can also be useful for arthritis, back pain, or a sprain.

Here, we’re focusing on how Zostrix treats pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia—a complication of shingles that causes pain. This long-term pain occurs in the area where the shingles rash was.

PHN may last for months or years after the shingles rash clears, and the pain is sometimes severe and debilitating, affecting your daily life. Zostrix alters TRPV1, reducing PHN pain.

How to use Zostrix for postherpetic neuralgia

How you use Zostrix depends on the type of condition you're treating. You should always follow your doctor's instructions or use the cream as directed on the label.

Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using Zostrix cream for shingles, especially if you don't understand the instructions on the label.

Here's how to use Zostrix:

  1. Clean and dry the affected area.

  2. Squeeze out enough cream to thinly cover the area.

  3. Apply the cream to the area where the rash was.

  4. Rub it gently and thoroughly.

  5. Massage Zostrix into the skin until there's no remaining residue.

  6. After applying the cream, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

You should apply the Zostrix cream 3–4 times daily for at least six weeks to achieve its full benefits. While the results might not be instant, you may notice relief after 2–4 weeks.³

Always ensure the area is clean and dry before applying Zostrix. You can use a rubber glove, cotton ball, finger cot, or clean tissue to apply Zostrix to your skin. This prevents the cream from getting on your fingers, so you won't need to wash your hands after application.

Zostrix may cause a burning sensation when you apply it to your skin. However, the sensation is often mild and lessens as you continue using the cream.

What to avoid when using Zostrix for postherpetic neuralgia

First, Zostrix is strictly for external use, so you should not ingest it. Other things to avoid include:

  • Do not apply the cream on your skin when shingles are active: Zostrix only offers relief for pain that follows shingles.

  • Do not apply a large amount of the cream to the affected area—a pea-sized amount is enough.

  • Do not use it on open wounds or sunburned, chapped, windburned, dry, or irritated skin.

  • Avoid contact with the eyes, mouth, nose, or genitals—rinse with water if the cream comes into contact with these areas.

  • Avoid washing the treated area for at least 30 minutes. Warm water or perspiration can increase the burning sensation caused by Zostrix.

  • To minimize the burning sensation, do not bandage the treated area tightly.

  • Do not use other medicated skin products like muscle pain lotions and creams on the areas you've applied the Zostrix cream to unless instructed by your doctor. 

  • Do not expose the treated skin to sunlamps, sunlight, tanning beds, or hot tubs.

  • Do not inhale the dried residue or odor of the Zostrix topical cream, as it can cause sneezing, coughing, or watery eyes and irritate your lungs and throat.

  • Do not apply immediately before or after activities like swimming, bathing, or strenuous exercise.

Does Zostrix for shingles have side effects?

Zostrix has certain side effects you must be aware of before using the cream. The side effects can be severe, requiring immediate medical care. 

They include:

  • Skin redness or severe pain where you applied the cream

  • Loss of sensation (numbness)

  • Pain and burning, especially after the first use

  • Swelling or blistering at the site of application

  • Dizziness

Accidentally inhaling the odor or dried residue can cause:

  • Coughing

  • Sneezing

  • Watery eyes

  • Throat irritation

  • Trouble breathing 

  • Difficulty swallowing

If you experience pain or an extreme burning sensation in the area where you applied the Zostrix cream, wash the area thoroughly with cold water and seek medical attention. 

Stop using the cream and seek immediate medical attention if you experience a severe allergic reaction to this drug (although it rarely occurs). Symptoms include:

  • Rash

  • Itching

  • Swelling, especially of the face, tongue, or throat

  • Severe dizziness

  • Trouble breathing

We haven't exhausted the list of Zostrix side effects. So, if you experience any issues, stop using the cream and talk to your doctor. You may also want to report the side effects to the FDA.

Other over-the-counter remedies for shingles pain treatment

Your doctor may recommend other over-the-counter medicines to ease shingles pain. OTC medications control the infection, speed healing, reduce inflammation, and minimize pain. 

Your doctor may recommend OTC pain medicines like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to minimize shingles pain and relieve mild discomfort. 

In some geographical regions, you can get lidocaine over the counter, which can numb the affected area. Calamine lotion and pramoxine can ease itching and soothe pain. 

How to prevent shingles

The best way to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated. Currently, Shingrix is the only vaccine available in the US against shingles.

The Shingrix vaccine is more than 90% effective in protecting you against shingles and protects against complications such as PHN.⁴

The vaccine is in two doses and is recommended for adults 50 years and older. If you’re over 18 with a weakened immune system, it’s wise to get the Shingrix vaccine to reduce your risk of complications.

If you have children, you can get them vaccinated against chickenpox if they’ve never had it before. This reduces their chance of contracting the virus and developing shingles later in life.

The lowdown

Many people are at risk of shingles. But while there's no cure, doctors recommend various treatments and remedies to shorten the course of the illness and ease the pain. Sometimes, the illness might cause complications like postherpetic neuralgia, a long-term pain nerve that occurs after the shingles rash clears. 

However, Zostrix cream can reduce the pain after a shingles rash. Speak to your doctor about Zostrix and whether it’s appropriate for you. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I use Zostrix during active shingles?

No. You should only apply the Zostrix cream to the area of the skin where the rash was after the shingles rash clears.

Is Zostrix supposed to burn?

Zostrix cream may cause a burning sensation where you apply it. This mostly happens when you're just starting to use it. The burning sensation should go away after some time. If the burning doesn’t stop and it’s severe, stop using Zostrix and speak to your doctor.

Have you considered clinical trials for Shingles?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Shingles, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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