Shingles is a virus that can cause pain and discomfort. Certain antiviral medications, including valacyclovir (Valtrex) may help reduce the duration of the symptoms.

If you’ve received a shingles diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe the antiviral medication valaciclovir (Valtrex) to help reduce the duration of your symptoms.

The symptoms of shingles can last anywhere between 3 and 5 weeks. Valtrex doesn’t cure shingles but instead helps keep the virus from multiplying.

Here’s what you should know about how to reduce the duration of your symptoms.

In a review of studies on the effectiveness of antiviral medications, including Valtrex, participants reported less pain from shingles after taking Valtrex compared to the antiviral medication acyclovir.

Acyclovir is another antiviral medication that healthcare professionals may prescribe for the management of shingles.

The researchers didn’t find any differences among the medications compared in terms of fewer lesions, crusting over, or side effects.

Learn more about how to manage shingles symptoms at home.

Most research regarding the effectiveness of Valtrex for shingles is when you start taking it within 72 hours after you first notice symptoms.

Shingles symptoms tend to follow a predictable pattern. Even if you don’t have immediately visible shingles lesions, your doctor can still perform tests to determine whether you may have shingles.

It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional as soon as you suspect shingles. They can decide whether Valtrex or another antiviral medication is right for you.

If the virus has already replicated too much, the medication may no longer be effective.

Valtrex can cause some side effects. The most commonly known effects include:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting

These side effects are usually mild. But Valtrex can cause some severe side effects, including issues with kidneys and nervous system function.

Severe side effects are more likely to occur in people ages 65 and older and those with preexisting kidney disease. A doctor should discuss these and other possible side effects with you before prescribing Valtrex.

If you get shingles, starting Valtrex treatment as soon as possible may help reduce the amount of days you experience shingles symptoms. It could also help lessen shingles-related pain.

Talk with a doctor if you suspect you have shingles.