Shingles

Shingles is a painful rash that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It usually appears as a band or strip of blisters on one side of the body that goes from the spine around the front to the breastbone.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a painful rash that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It usually appears as a band or strip of blisters on one side of the body that goes from the spine around the front to the breastbone. However, the rash can also appear on the neck, nose, and forehead.

What causes shingles?

Shingles derives from the same virus that causes chickenpox. After having chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in nerve tissue underneath the skin. Years later, and with no known reason, it reactivates and causes shingles. Shingles is contagious and can easily pass through touching from one person to another. The virus develops into shingles for people who have had chickenpox and develops into chickenpox for those who have not had it.

The infection appears most frequently among older adults (age 60+) and in people with compromised immune systems. Generally, a person only gets shingles once; it rarely recurs.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness, or tingling on one side of the body. The pain often precedes any other symptoms.
  • A rash that appears a few days after the pain. It may be itchy.
  • Blisters that break open and then crust over.
  • Fever, achiness, or headache.

Some people never get a rash or blisters with shingles, but simply experience the pain.

How is shingles treated?

Shingles is diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of the telltale rash. If you suspect you may have an infection, it is important to contact your doctor as quickly as possible. Early treatment can reduce the pain and severity of the episode. Two types of medications are prescribed to treat it:

  • Antiviral drugs to combat the virus, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir
  • Pain medicines, from oral pain pills and antidepressants to anticonvulsants and topical preparations that contain skin-numbing agents

Antiviral medications taken within three days of an outbreak is most effective.

Shingles usually heals in about 2 to 3 weeks without any problem. However, there is a small percentage of patients (10% to 15%), predominantly over age 50, who experience pain that lasts beyond one month after the healing period. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. Detecting the infection early and beginning treatment can reduce the likelihood and severity of postherpetic neuralgia.

The infection can be prevented with a vaccine. Dermatologists recommend the vaccine for those aged 50 and older.

Request a consultation in Meridian, Idaho

If you have shingles or suspect that you have the infection, schedule a consultation at Boise Dermatology & Medspa. Dr. Brooks will diagnose your condition and prescribe the right treatment. Call (208) 888-0660 or request a consultation on our website. Dr. Brooks is a board-certified dermatologist with over 17 years of experience. She will ensure that you get the proper care and will improve the overall health of your skin. Contact us today.


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