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Sufferers of the skin complaint known as shingles have been offered a new way of treating the “excruciating” pain that sometimes accompanies the condition.
Shingles is caused when the dormant varicella zoster virus, often contracted in childhood and shows itself in the form of chickenpox, is reactivated. This often occurs during times of stress and produces a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area of the body.
A study, from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York, has shown the painkiller oxycodone is effective in treating the pain associated with shingles.
Researchers, writing in the journal Pain, looked at the effectiveness of treating the pain of shingles in 87 patients with two drugs oxycodone and gabapentin, both used to treat pain associated with nerve damage.
The findings show patients taking oxycodone were more than twice as likely to experience a significant reduction in pain compared with a placebo. Gabapentin showed no meaningful benefit to pain relief.
Lead author Dr Robert Dworkin said: “Oftentimes patients are told that the rash will heal in two or three weeks anyway, and the pain will go away, so they’re not given something for the pain unless it’s excruciating.
“But moderate pain can stop people from working, or enjoying their hobbies, and it can also make some people depressed or anxious. So there’s good reason to treat all pain from the infection.”
Copyright Press Association 2009