Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) is often applied topically. The liquid is a paper byproduct that has many uses and benefits but is often used for shingles. DMSO for shingles may include an antiviral drug named idoxuridine, which is applied along with DMSO to help reduce swelling and blisters. As an alternative form of medicine, DMSO for shingles pain has a lot of anecdotal evidence of its efficacy and new studies indicating the substance's effectiveness.
How DMSO for Shingles Pain Works
DMSO on its own is known for its ability to rapidly absorb into the skin. The high absorption rate is often leveraged by combining additional medications with DMSO to improve their ability to absorb into the body.
It was found in the late 19th century that DMSO had the ability to help small molecules pass through the skin with greater ease. Since then, the substance has been used in a variety of topical applications, but it must be used with the utmost care because anything on the skin passes through with greater ease.
Any form of contaminants, especially when using high concentration levels of DMSO, can lead to side effects.
Since DMSO increases the strength and efficiency of medications, it can be used to enhance the pain-relieving benefits of certain ingredients. Side effects can also be amplified, so it's important to take it slow to see how combining ingredients with DMSO impacts you.
Scientific studies on the usage of DMSO for herpes zoster (shingles) have been conducted since the 1970s. While studies are still ongoing, we do have some direct studies relating to shingles pain.
1979 Clinical Study
Early studies from 1979 were done on DMSO and idoxuridine (IDU) in ointment form. The study used multiple dosage amounts of:
- 40% IDU dissolved in DMSO
- 60% DMSO basis
- 5% IDU, 60% DMSO
- 40% IDU, 60% DMSO
Groups were divided into 20 people that were all required to use the combination until their skin started healing. Treatment A, or the first one listed above, showed positive healing effects. The study didn't show a major difference in pain, but it was found that age played a role in the skin's healing and effectiveness of DMSO for shingles.
A study conducted in 1981 continued to examine the impact of 5% IDU in DMSO on 46 patients that were split into two groups. One group received just DMSO. Treatment started within the initial 48-hour period from when the rash was found.
The IDU group noted:
- Significantly shorter period of pain
- Fewer vesicles on the third-day follow-up
The study was one of the most promising and helpful at the time. Researchers showed that the combination of IDU and DMSO was able to reduce pain and the severity of shingles.
An abstract from 1984 outlined multiple uses for DMSO and notes that the solvent is widely available and inexpensive. The abstract covered multiple usages and cases where DMSO can be beneficial, but for the purpose of this article, we'll focus on shingles.
At the time, it was noted that in the United Kingdom, a mixture of IDU and DMSO had been used in the treatment of shingles.
Side effects were minor and often related to the concentration of DMSO. High concentrations may need to be diluted in an effort to avoid side effects.
More research is necessary to determine the exact treatment options for shingles sufferers. A lot of people choose online, over-the-counter cream alternatives to try DMSO for themselves. These topical treatments are generally safe and can help with pain and inflammation. There's evidence that the solvent can help lower inflammation and also reduce the number of lesions you have.
Inconsistency in studies and a lack of large-scale studies have resulted in many people questioning the usage and effectiveness of DMSO. The substance has shown great promise in helping people that suffer from Arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, nerve pain, chemo, and even Cancer.
Doctors can discuss potential risks with you, but the side effects seen to-date in the studies available are minimal.
DMSO Side Effects
Topical application is most common. Side effects are minimal, but they include:
- Upset stomach
- Skin irritation
- Garlic odor
Serious side effects include:
- Itching sensation
- Burning sensation
- Allergic reactions
Due to the substance's ability to increase the effectiveness of medications, it's possible that the side effects of certain medications may be amplified.
Oral administration is less common than topical usage, and the side effects are also different. Side effects that you may experience when taking DMSO orally include:
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Decreased appetite
The main concern when using DMSO is that it's a major carrier that will cause anything on the skin to be absorbed. You'll want to wash your hands thoroughly before application or any of the substances that may be on your skin at the time can absorb into the body and make you sick.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid usage. Little-to-no research has been done on the damage to a fetus or infant when using DMSO. It's better to be safe than sorry and avoid usage unless instructed by a doctor.
DMSO for Shingles Dosage Recommendations
DMSO still lacks a lot of studies pertaining to usage. The substance, according to the studies above, is used in the following dosage amounts:
- Application every 4 hours for 4 days when combined with 5% to 40% idoxuridine
- Apply daily and as needed
If you're using a preformulated cream, you should follow the directions outlined on the container. It's important to start with lower dosages before increasing to determine how your body reacts to DMSO.
Increasing dosage amounts and application should be done slowly.
DMSO for shingles is still being studied, but there are many people that have tried this alternative form for pain with great success. If you're on medication or suffer from certain medical conditions, consult with your doctor before usage.
Otherwise, the typical side effects of DMSO are minimal and there are many reports of the solvent being great for pain relief. When combined with medications known to help relieve the symptoms of shingles, the solvent is even more potent.