Shingles Treatment Clark, Kearny, Jersey City, Teaneck, West NY, New Jersey and Staten Island New York.
Shingles (herpes zoster) occurs when the virus that causes chicken pox is reactivated in the body, usually as a result of a stressor such as illness or a weakened immune system. It's for this reason that individuals who have never had chicken pox are not at risk of developing shingles. The shingles virus causes inflamation of the nerves which can be very painful.
If you've had chicken pox, the virus that causes it remains in your body for your entire life. For most people, it remains dormant but for others - about one in three, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - the virus flares up and becomes active, causing the painful condition known as shingles.
Shingles is less contagious than chicken pox, but it can still be spread to others who have not had chicken pox. People who are at higher risk for shingles include those who:
- Are over 50 years of age
- Have been ill
- Have a weakened immune system, either from illness or medical treatment such as chemotherapy
- Have been under considerable stress
- Have taken cortisone for a prolonged period
Signs and Symptoms
The blisters from the painful viral infection are not usually as itchy as chicken pox sores, but they can be quite painful. Here are some of the signs and symptoms you should look out for as the condition progresses:
- Burning, tingling or itchy areas of skin which typically occur on one side of the body and which persist for several days
- A rash that develops in the area where the sensations first occurred
- Clear blisters in the rash area which slowly turn yellowish before scabbing over in about two to three weeks
- Flu-like symptoms including fever and headache
Pain typically occurs in the blistered area and may resolve when the blisters heal. However, in some patients the pain may persist for months after the blisters disappear.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Most cases can be diagnosed with a physical examination, but in some cases, your doctor may take a skin scraping in the blistered area and have it examined under a microscope or by a lab technician.
Left untreated, the rash typically resolves on its own within a few weeks. However, because of the pain involved in most cases and the pain and itching that may persist for months or even years afterward, seeing a doctor and having professional medical care is highly recommended.
Treatments may include over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, depending upon the pain you're feeling; antiviral medications, which can lessen pain and also shorten the duration of symptoms; nerve blocks, reserved for cases of intense pain; and anesthetic creams or other medications once the rash clears to minimize pain.
Outcomes and Follow-up
Post-herpetic neuralgia is the most common problem patients face after the initial signs and symptoms disappear. This condition causes protracted pain, itching and tingling which can last for months or even years. When the eyes become involved, permanent damage to sight can occur. In addition, if the rash is scratched, it may become infected. Getting early treatment is the key to the best outcome, so see your doctor at the first sign of symptoms. If you are in a high risk group, ask your physician or dermatologist about annual shots to help prevent outbreaks.