Shingles and the Common Drug: Gabapentin
Shingles is a virus that can cause painful, red rashes on the skin. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and is most likely to occur in people over age 50. Treatment for shingles includes antiviral medications, pain relievers and topical creams. One medication commonly used to treat shingles is gabapentin.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a commonly prescribed anticonvulsant drug created to help with nerve pain. It works by altering the body’s natural chemicals, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and by blocking the transmission of pain signals between the brain and the body.
How Does Gabapentin Work to Treat Shingles?
Gabapentin is used to treat the pain associated with post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a condition that commonly occurs after a bout of shingles. This pain can be severe and can last for many weeks or months after the shingles rash itself has gone away. Gabapentin helps to reduce the severity of the pain and can help the person to sleep better.
Possible Side Effects of Taking Gabapentin
As with any medication, there are potential side effects associated with taking gabapentin. Some of the most common are:
- Drowsiness: Gabapentin can cause drowsiness, so it may impair concentration and coordination. People taking gabapentin should not drive or operate machinery until they have assessed how the drug makes them feel.
- Nausea: Some people experience nausea when taking gabapentin. This can usually be reduced by taking the medication with a meal.
- Weight Gain: Some people gain weight when taking gabapentin. This weight gain should be monitored by a doctor.
When Should I Not Take Gabapentin?
Gabapentin should not be taken if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past, if you are pregnant, or if you have kidney disease. In addition, gabapentin can interact with other medications, so it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any new medications.
Gabapentin is a commonly prescribed medication for shingles, but there may be other options as well. It is important to speak to a doctor to discuss which treatment is best for you.