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Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles, because after recovering from chickenpox, the virus may enter the nervous system and lie dormant for decades. A weakened immune system caused by stress, disease, or overall aging can put a patient at risk for reactivating the chicken pox virus and develop shingles. It's not entirely clear why the virus is reactivated, but shingles can only develop — not chickenpox. There's also a small chance that an individual with a shingles rash can spread the virus to another individual who's never had chickenpox, and therefore, patients with active shingles need to avoid those at-risk individuals.
The symptoms of shingles are usually only noticeable on a small segment of one side of your body. The most common symptoms are pain, tingling, numbness, itching or burning, and/or a red rash often with small blisters. These symptoms usually appear a few days after you first begin experiencing discomfort. Other symptoms include sensitivity to touch and fluid-filled blisters that can break open and crust over, as well as fatigue, sensitivity to light, fever, or a headache. Some patients may feel as if they have the flu. Those who have shingles usually find that their symptoms arrive in stages, with pain occurring first and then visible skin-related symptoms following. Some patients experience continued pain even after treatment and the rash has resolved. This condition is called postherpetic neuralgia and there are treatments available for this if needed.
Shingles Treatment Options
While there's no cure for shingles, there are several antiviral drugs that can provide relief, clear up symptoms, and decrease the possibility of complications. There is also a shingles vaccine that is available and may prevent a shingles outbreak, so ask your primary care physician if you are an eligible candidate. Since shingles can be painful, Dr. Kingston may prescribe a numbing agent in the form of a gel, cream, skin patch, or spray. Prescription-strength painkillers can also be prescribed. In some cases, Dr. Kingston may prescribe an antidepressant or gabapentin to help you cope with the pain and symptoms, but these medications are most often used in patients who have postherpetic neuralgia (persistent pain in the area after the shingles rash has healed).
Attain Relief Today
If you have experienced any of the painful or visible symptoms associated with shingles, please call Adean Kingston, M.D., PLLC today to schedule an appointment for a thorough examination. Dr. Kingston will examine your skin, provide a proper diagnosis, and get you started with the proper treatment protocol.