Do you have shingles? If you have a painful rash on your body, shingles could be to blame. Shingles present on the skin as a blistering, painful rash. While there is no cure for shingles there are shingles treatments that can help manage the pain and reduce the symptoms. It’s crucial to see your dermatology provider as soon as possible if you think you have shingles. Although shingles can clear up on their own within a few weeks, the best way to treat shingles is with help from a dermatology provider. Without medical intervention, you can develop complications from shingles and the pain and discomfort can last much longer. A dermatology provider will most likely scrape the blisters on your skin to get a sample and then send it to a lab to verify that you have shingles. Getting a prescription from a dermatology provider is the best way to treat shingles. If you have shingles on your face, report to a doctor immediately. Shingles near the eye area can cause permanent damage to the eyes.
What is Shingles?
Shingles are a viral rash that appears on the skin. It’s also referred to as herpes zoster. Shingles are characterized by the painful, blistering rash. The cause of Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus (aricella zoster virus) sometimes many years later. Shingles occurs in the population that have previously had the chickenpox virus during the course of their lives. Shingles typically occurs on the skin as a painful blistering rash that extends in a pattern located in accordance with the nerves. The most common areas on the skin affected by shingles are the abdomen, face, back, chest and buttocks.The red, itchy patches that develop across these areas then transform into small blisters and can resemble the chickenpox in appearance.
How Do You Get Shingles?
Shingles is most frequently seen in older adults and those with weakened immune systems caused by injury, certain medications, stress, or other issues. Most of those who are afflicted with shingles will eventually get better and not get it again. That said, it is indeed possible to have a reoccurrence and get shingles more than one time in your lifetime. A shingles outbreak occurs when the aricella zoster virus (the same one that causes chickenpox) reoccurs in your body. Even after you recover from the chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in your nerve system. While in some of the population, the virus remains in this dormant state forever, it wakes up in others. This happens particularly when something weakens the immune system, such as age, disease or stress. Additionally, some medications can trigger the virus to wake up and lead to a shingles outbreak. When the virus is reactivated, it does not cause a reoccurrence of chickenpox, only the shingles rash appears.
Are Shingles Contagious?
Shingles are not contagious. It’s not possible to contract shingles from another person who has it. However, there is a small risk that someone with a shingles rash is able to spread the virus to someone who never had the chickenpox or the vaccine for chickenpox.
Risk factors of contracting shingles includes:
- Older adults (typically over 50 years of age)
- People with diseases, such as cancer or HIV
- Those who have had an organ transplant
- Those who are unable to easily to fight off infection due immune deficiency or stress
Shingles symptoms can occur in stages. The first symptom for shingles could be a headache, muscular aches or a sensitivity to light. Some people describe it as feeling like they caught the flu but with no fever. Other symptoms of shingles include:
- Stabbing pain in the region with the shingles rash
Treatment for shingles can include anti-viral medications, steroids, and pain medications. As soon as you think you have shingles, make an appointment to see a dermatology provider. The quicker you can begin a prescription of anti-viral medication, the better off your prognosis will be. Topical antibiotic creams can also be applied to the rash to help prevent infections to occur to the blisters. In some cases, pain can persist after the rash has disappeared. This is known as postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. If you are diagnosed with PHN, a doctor might prescribe medications such as painkillers, anti-depressants, topical anesthetics to help you cope with the pain. The best treatments for shingles include:
- Antiviral drugs, including Famvir, Valtrex, and Zovirax. Antiviral drugs can help with the pain, expedite the healing process, treat the rash and reduce the complications that may occur with Shingles.
- Pain reducing treatments, including numbing agents, narcotic medications, Capsaicin cream, anti-convulsants, local anesthetics, injections of steroids.
If you think you might have shingles, contact us now to make an appointment with one of our medical providers.