You have probably heard of shingles, but did you know that it is not just a skin condition? It is actually a viral condition caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles can be painful and annoying for those experiencing them. For prompt and effective treatment options to help lessen your discomfort and speed up the healing process, contact our office today!
What is Herpes Zoster?
Herpes zoster, also commonly called shingles, is a viral infection that results in a painful skin rash. While shingles can appear on any area of the body, it usually appears as a single strip of blisters that can wrap around the side of the torso or on the side of the face, arm, or leg.
The first signs of shingles are a feeling of pain, burning, numbness or tingling on the skin. Eventually, a red rash will appear, and itchy fluid-filled blisters will develop as the infection progresses. These blisters will break open and crust over. You may also experience fever, headache, fatigue, and sensitivity to light. Shingles are contagious, and you can spread the infection until all of your sores have crusted over.
Be sure to contact a doctor right away if you experience shingles in or near the eye, or if your rash is very widespread and painful.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that is the cause of chickenpox. In order to develop shingles, you must have had chickenpox first. After you experience chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus will move into your nerve tissues near the spinal cord, where it becomes dormant. Sometimes, this virus can be activated again and travels along the nerve fibers of your skin, resulting in shingles. While most people only experience shingles once in their lifetime, you can have shingles more than once.
You may have a higher risk of developing shingles if you are 50 years or older, are experiencing high levels of stress, have a disease that lowers your immune system such as cancer or HIV, or have taken steroids for long periods of time.
Treatment Options for Herpes Zoster
There is no cure for shingles but treating this condition as quickly as possible with antiviral medications and speed up the healing process and reduce your risk for possible complications. Dr. Gray may prescribe Acyclovir, Famiciclovir, or Valacyclovir to treat the virus. Shingles can also be very painful, so certain medications to control discomfort such as Gabapentin, lidocaine, capsaicin patches, or corticosteroids may help.