Shingles is a painful skin condition that mostly occurs in older adults. While shingles can be both uncomfortable and contagious, there are treatments available to help with healing. This guide will break down the basics of the shingles virus and its connection to chickenpox, as well as how your dermatologist can help you find relief.
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a viral infection that appears as a rash on the skin. The condition is often quite painful and can appear anywhere on the body. However, it most often occurs on the torso and buttocks. It can appear around the eyes, potentially causing eye damage if left untreated.
Some of the main shingles symptoms include pain, burning, numbness, itching, and skin sensitivity. The rash often appears as blisters that eventually scab over. Some patients will also experience headache, fever, fatigue, and sensitivity to light.
Certain individuals have a higher risk of developing shingles than others. This virus is most common in individuals who are older than 50. Anyone with a weakened immune system is at higher risk, as are people undergoing cancer treatment or taking certain medications. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about your risk factors for shingles.
With that said, anyone who has had chickenpox in the past is also at risk for developing shingles. Chickenpox is the main risk factor for shingles. This is because both conditions are caused by the varicella zoster virus. The virus can remain in your nervous system after you had chickenpox, later resurfacing as shingles. You can get shingles more than once. However, not everyone who has had chickenpox will later have shingles. Experts aren’t sure what makes the virus come out of dormancy later in life.
While there isn’t a cure for shingles, your doctor may prescribe several shingles treatment options to ease your symptoms and speed up recovery. Antiviral medications can be effective if taken within 72 hours of your first symptoms. Your doctor may also recommend taking over-the-counter painkillers to reduce inflammation. They may also prescribe topical creams and gels to soothe the skin and prevent infections.
To reduce your chances of contracting shingles, you may consider receiving the chickenpox or shingles vaccines. While these vaccines may not guarantee that you won’t contract the virus, they can be an effective prevention strategy. Your doctor will recommend a vaccine based on your age and risk factors.
Those who already have shingles should keep in mind that they can be contagious while the rash is present. Be sure to wash your hands frequently and keep the rash covered to prevent the spread of the virus. You should also stay away from anyone with weakened immune systems until the rash crusts over.
If you are experiencing symptoms of shingles, visit the experts at Pacific Dermatology Specialists. With several locations in Carson, Long Beach, Seal Beach, Torrance, Downey, and Montebello, CA, our team is available to diagnose your condition and recommend treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.