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Identifying and Treating Shingles
Posted on 08/01/2017

Identifying and Treating Shingles

man-and-womanIf you had chickenpox as a child, the experience probably didn’t leave you with any fond memories. The good news is that the experience is in the past, as chicken pox is not a recurring contagion. The bad news, however, is that hosting the chicken pox virus at any point puts you at risk for getting the Shingles infection in adulthood.


Knowing how to identify Shingles is the best way to protect yourself against the severe harm the infection can cause. By being aware of what to look for, you can catch the infection early then receive a proper diagnosis and treatment from your Lynchburg and Forest, VA dermatologist and prevent worse symptoms.



Getting to Know Shingles

Shingles is caused by the same virus behind chickenpox (varicella zoster virus). Once a person has recovered from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body for years. Later in life, the virus can reactivate and cause Shingles. This affliction is a lot more common than you might think. Almost 1 in every 3 people in the United States will develop Shingles in their lifetime.


It’s not quite clear why the virus reactivates, but age holds a very high correlation to the chances of contracting Shingles. Every year there are an estimated 1 million new cases, and about half these cases occur in men and women 60 years or older. Other at-risk individuals include those with medical and/or chronic conditions that weaken the immune system, including certain cancers and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Certain drugs that suppress the immune system, such as steroids or medications administered after an organ transplant, can raise the risk for the virus reactivating and causing Shingles as well.


Symptoms of Shingles

One of the first signs of Shingles is developing an area of sensitive skin on one side of the body that burns, itches, tingles, or even experiences a sharp stabbing pain. A few days later, a rash appears on the side of your face, characterized by red spots. If left untreated, this rash will rapidly evolve into painful blisters, which can turn yellow or bloody before scabbing over.


Severe pain where the rash has formed is one of the most common complications, and the pain can be debilitating without treatment from you dermatologist. Some people may also experience flu-like symptoms that occur alongside the rash.


More serious complications can affect the eye and cause loss of vision. In rare cases, Shingles can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, brain inflammation, or death. Hence the importance of visiting your Lynchburg and Forest, VA dermatologist right away.


Treating Shingles Symptoms

To help relieve Shingles pain, we recommend seeing one of our dermatologists as soon as symptoms appear. We will be able to prescribe anti-viral medicine to help alleviate symptoms, especially if the medication is used within 72 hours of the rash appearing. Contact us and we can schedule an appointment as soon as possible!


Here are some other tips from the American Academy of Dermatology to help alleviate Shingles symptoms at home:


  • Cool the rash with ice packs, cold wet cloths, and cool baths.

  • Apply calamine lotion to the rash and blisters. Never scratch, pick at, or pop the blisters.

  • Cover the rash with loose, non-stick, sterile bandages.

  • Wear loose cotton clothing around affected body parts.


Is Shingles Contagious?

Yes. Shingles blisters carry a live varicella-zoster virus, and direct contact with the fluid inside the blister can easily spread the virus from person to person. If you suspect you have Shingles, avoid contact with pregnant women and anyone who has not been vaccinated for Shingles.


Shingles Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a one-time Shingles vaccination for people 60 years and older, as well as those who have at-risk medical conditions. It’s also a good idea to get a shot even if you’ve already had Shingles because the virus can reactivate more than once.


Even though the current vaccine is only 51% effective in preventing Shingles, it can lessen the severity of symptoms. Be sure to consult with your dermatologist about the best time to get a Shingles shot.


Shingles is a painful experience for anyone. Let our team of dermatologists help you prevent, alleviate, and treat Shingles symptoms in the swiftest manner possible! If you are from Lynchburg or Forest, VA, please contact ustoday to schedule an appointment in our office!