Shingles What are Shingles and what are the symptoms? Shingles are a very painful skin condition caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV – the same virus that causes chickenpox) that will affect approximately 1 out of 3 people in their lifetime. Shingles usually starts with itching, tingling, and pain on one side of the body. It most often occurs in the trunk, but may affect the leg or even the face. A very typical blistering rash forms on the skin in the same region 1 to 5 days after the initial symptoms (itching, tingling, pain). The shingles rash will then scab over in about a week and clear up in 2-4 weeks. Associated symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach. Prevention There is now a vaccine to protect against shingles. The CDC recommends that all patients over the age of 60 receive the vaccine. Treatment The primary treatment for shingles is an antiviral medication (acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir) to directly treat the virus. These medications are most effective when taken immediately after the onset of the rash. Use of these medications also may help prevent post-herpetic neuralgia (severe pain even after the shingles rash goes away). Other treatments may include medications for pain, including NSAIDS, acetaminophen, hydrocodone, or other similar pain relievers. Nerve pain medications such as tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsants may also help control the pain from shingles. If the pain is extremely severe, a nerve block with injected steroids may be recommended by your Austin pain management doctor to help control your pain. Oral steroids have also been used to reduce inflammation from shingles and may help reduce the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia. Risk of Transmission The varicella virus is highly contagious, so patients with active shingles should avoid pregnant women, children, and infants who have not had chickenpox, and people who are immune deficient (like those with cancer, HIV, or who have received an organ transplant). If you have shingles, your Austin Pain Management doctor at Capitol Pain Institute can help! Please call our office at 512-467-7246 to schedule an appointment or contact us now by email to request an appointment.
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