Shingles is a viral infection that affects the nerves. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The telltale sign of shingles is a painful rash that appears on one side of the body, often in a stripe. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away: pain, tingling, burning, or numbness; dizziness; headache; fever; and sensitivity to light. In this article, we will go over how to identify Shingles as well as what to do if you suspect you have them.
What is Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in their nerve cells. For reasons that are not fully understood, the virus can reactivate later in life and cause shingles.
Who gets Shingles?
Shingles can occur at any age, but it is most common in people over the age of 50. The risk of developing shingles increases as a person gets older or people with weakened immune systems.
Some of these people include:
- Cancer patients
- People who have undergone organ transplants
- People with HIV/AIDS
- Pregnant women.
What symptoms would I experience if I have Shingles?
The most common symptom of shingles is a stripe of fluid-filled blisters that wrap around one side of your body. These “fluid-filled blisters” are pus-filled and crust over after a week or two. The stripe would follow the path of a particular nerve.
Other symptoms include:
- Intense pain
The pain of shingles has been described as deep, aching, throbbing, sharp, or stabbing.
- Burning and numbness of the skin
- Dizziness, headache, or migraine
- Sensitivity to light
How is Shingles diagnosed?
If you think you might have shingles, it’s important to see your doctor right away. The earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical examination. They may also order a blood test or take a skin sample (biopsy) to confirm the diagnosis.
What are the treatment options for Shingles?
There is no cure for shingles, but there are treatments that can help ease the symptoms.
These include the following:
- Antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir
These drugs can help shorten the duration of the rash and pain. They are most effective if started within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms.
- Pain relievers
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help ease the pain.
- Corticosteroids like prednisone
These can also help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Antibacterial ointments
These can help prevent secondary bacterial infections of the skin.
- Wet compresses
Apply these to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. This can help dry out the blisters and ease the pain.
How do I prevent passing my Shingles infection?
If you have shingles, it’s important to keep the rash covered. This will help prevent the spread of the virus to other people. It would be best to avoid contact with pregnant women, infants, and anyone with a weakened immune system.
It is also important to practice good hygiene. This means washing your hands often and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
When should I get the Shingles vaccine?
The shingles vaccine is recommended for people over the age of 50. The vaccine can help reduce your risk of developing shingles or the severity of the symptoms if you do get it.
There are two types of vaccines available: Zostavax and Shingrix.
What is Zostavax?
Zostavax is a one-time vaccination that can help prevent shingles.
What is Shingrix?
Shingrix is a newer vaccine that is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older. It is given in two doses, spaced two to six months apart. It is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and can help prevent the virus from reactivating later in life.
It is recommended that everyone over the age of 50 gets vaccinated with Shingrix, even if they have previously received Zostavax.
Shingrix is the preferred vaccine for people aged 50 years and older because it:
- Is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles
- Protects against all strains of the virus
- Lasts longer
If you think you may have shingles or have any questions about the vaccine, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Shingles is a condition that can be difficult to identify. If you think you may have shingles, it’s essential to see your doctor right away. There is no cure for shingles, but there are treatments that can help ease the symptoms. These include antiviral drugs, pain relievers, corticosteroids, and antibacterial ointments. You can also help prevent the spread of the virus by keeping the rash covered and practicing good hygiene. The shingles vaccine is recommended for people over the age of 50 and can help reduce your risk of developing shingles or the severity of the symptoms if you do get it. If you have any questions about the vaccine, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can help ease your symptoms and prevent complications.