It’s likely that you or someone you know has experienced a shingles infection at some point. And while this infection is not life-threatening, some mature adults may experience complications. Here’s what you should know about the shingles virus and the importance of treatment.
Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a child has chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in their body for years. It can then emerge decades later and cause shingles.
Shingles leads to a painful rash that often appears on one small area of your body. In addition to the rash, some of the most common symptoms of shingles include:
Pain, itching, or burning
Numbness or tingling
Fever, chills, and headache
Sensitivity to light
Shingles is common on the torso, face, neck, and around the eye. Once a person contracts the shingles virus, they often experience pain as the first symptom. The rash and other symptoms typically follow.
Adults over 50 and those with a weakened immune system are often at higher risk for the shingles virus. Doctors often recommend the shingles vaccine to patients age 60 and over. The vaccine offers protection for about five years but doesn’t guarantee that you won’t develop shingles.
While there isn’t a cure for shingles, antiviral medications can help your immune system fight the virus. Your doctor may also provide treatment for pain, which can include medications like numbing creams, patches, and oral prescriptions.
The shingles virus typically lasts for about a month before fading away. However, seeing your doctor and starting shingles treatment as soon as you notice symptoms can help prevent long-term complications. Some of the possible health effects of shingles include:
Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN): PHN is a type of long-term nerve pain and occurs in 10 to 18% of shingles cases. It’s most common in people over 40. PHN can last for several months or even years after the shingles rash has cleared.
Ramsay Hunt Syndrome: Shingles around the ears can cause a rare condition called Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can lead to complications like ear pain, hearing loss, tinnitus, inability to move parts of the face, and dizziness. This complication is treatable.
Eye Complications: Adults who develop shingles around the eyes may develop vision complications if they don’t seek treatment. Shingles around the eyes can cause nerve damage, loss of vision, glaucoma, eye sores, redness, and swelling.
In rare cases, shingles can lead to pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, and even death. The bottom line is that seeking treatment for shingles is key. This is true for mild to severe shingles. Your doctor can help you control your symptoms and stay ahead of potential complications.
Shingles can be debilitating to mature adults, so seeking care is essential. The team at Pacific Dermatology Specialists is here to answer your questions about shingles and provide treatment. With locations in Carson, CA, and other communities around the Greater Los Angeles area, we offer cosmetic, medical, and surgical dermatology services to support your skin’s health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our providers.