Find out more information about your pain condition or syndrome.
What is Shingles?
Shingles is a viral infection. It develops as a painful skin rash on certain parts of the body. Although shingles can appear anywhere on your body, it usually appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around one side of your torso, neck, or face. The cycle of shingles lasts from 3 to 5 weeks. You will often feel a tingling, burning, numb, or itchy sensation under your skin before developing a rash. The rash usually subsides within 7 to 10 days.
How is Shingles Diagnosed?
Your doctor will first learn about the history of your pain, and look for signs of the rash and blisters. They will ask if you’ve ever had chickenpox. He or she might also take a tissue sample or culture of the blisters to examine in a lab.
What are The Symptoms of Shingles?
Pain is the first sign of shingles. Sometimes people confuse shingles pain for other health problems, depending on where the pain develops. It is possible to experience shingles pain without ever developing a rash. The rash will usually only develop on one side of your body.
The most common symptoms of shingles include:
- Pain, burning, tingling, or numbness
- Sensitivity to touch
- A red rash that follows a few days after the pain begins
- Blisters that break open and crust over
Other, somewhat less common symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to light
Usually 5 days after the onset of pain, you may see a red rash in the area. The rash looks like small groups of fluid-filled blisters. You might also experience fever, headache, fatigue or other flu-like symptoms.
After 10 days, the will blisters dry up and form scabs. These scabs typically clear up after a few weeks. Some people continue to experience pain even after the scabs clear up.
What Causes Shingles?
Anyone who has ever had chicken pox is at risk for developing shingles. Shortly after chicken pox heals, the virus moves from the skin to an area close to the spinal cord and brain. The virus remains there for many years undetected. It can become active when a person’s immune system is weakened.
There are some factors that might increase the risk of developing shingles:
- Age–The risk of developing shingles increases with age. Shingles is more common in people older than 50. Experts say that half of all people age older than 80 will develop shingles.
- Certain Diseases–Anything that weakens your immune system, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, increases your risk for developing shingles.
- Cancer Treatments–Chemotherapy or radiation can weaken your immune system and may increase your risk of shingles.
- Medications–Drugs that are designed to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs can increase your risk of shingles. Any prolonged use of steroids can also trigger shingles.
How Do You Treat Shingles?
There is no known cure for shingles. There are medications that can minimize symptoms and slow the progression of shingles. Your doctor may recommend a combination of medications and injections. Although shingles is not a life-threatening condition, it can be incredibly painful.
Vaccines help reduce the risk of shingles. Early detection of shingles might help shorten the episode and decrease the risk of complications.
Is Shingles Contagious?
If you have shingles, you can pass the virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox. This happens if someone comes in direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash. Once infected, the person will develop chicken pox, not shingles.
Chicken pox is very dangerous for some people. You should wait for your shingles blisters to scab over before coming into direct contact with anyone that hasn’t had chickenpox or the chicken pox vaccine. You should also avoid contact with people that have weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and newborn babies.
What Are The Possible Complications From Shingles?
Possible complications from shingles can include:
- Skin infections–Bacterial infections can develop if the blisters from shingles are not treated properly
- Vision loss–If you have shingles anywhere near your eye, including your nose, you may develop a painful eye infection that could result in vision loss
- Postherpetic neuralgia–Pain might linger long after the blisters have cleared. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. It occurs when damaged nerve fibers send confused messages of pain from your skin to your brain.
- Neurological problems-Shingles can cause inflammation of certain nervous system functions. It’s possible to develop inflammation of the brain, facial paralysis, hearing distortion, or balance problems.
Contact us today for more information or to schedule an appointment. The experts at the Pain Relief Center are dedicated to helping you reduce or eliminate the pain from shingles.
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