Aging Pain Management

Stop Shingles Before it Starts

Have you gotten your shingles vaccination? Shingles, or herpes zoster, is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, and results in painful, blistering rashes on your skin. Shingles can affect anyone who has had chickenpox, but the risk increases with age.

To further protect yourself and your loved ones against shingles here are some questions and answers about the virus that everyone should know.

What causes shingles and can it spread?

The chickenpox virus never completely leaves your body. Instead, it lies dormant in your system, hiding in certain nerve cells. Shingles occurs when this virus suddenly becomes active again.

Shingles itself isn’t contagious. But the virus can be passed on through direct contact with the shingles sores by anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox, causing them to develop chickenpox. For that reason, an infected person should avoid physical contact with others who have never had chickenpox, especially infants and pregnant women, until all the blisters crust over.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Shingles first appears as a tingling or burning sensation followed by red blotches on the skin. These blotches typically appear on your torso crossing from your abdomen to your spine, but they can also appear on your face. Wherever they appear, these blotches quickly become painful or itchy and develop blisters. While this rash is the most common symptom, it isn’t the only one. Other symptoms of shingles include abdominal pain, chills, fever, headache, hearing loss and problems with taste or vision.

How is shingles treated?

Shingles is treated with an antiviral drug that reduces the pain and risk of complications, and shortens the length of the outbreak. The prescription typically comes in pill form and works best when started within 24 hours of detection, before blistering occurs.

A shingles outbreak may take a few weeks to clear up. In the meantime cool compresses, long baths and lotions can help soothe the pain and itching, or your doctor may recommend medications that can help. Bed rest is also recommended if you have a fever.

What are possible complications of shingles?

People over age 60 have the highest risk for complications from shingles. These complications include nerve damage in areas of initial outbreak — leading to long-lasting pain — as well as reinfection, blindness, deafness or bacterial infections.

Get vaccinated!

Shingles is preventable. By taking the time now to go be vaccinated, you could save yourself from a lot of pain later on.

For more information on shingles or to schedule an appointment, visit the Steward DoctorFinder

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.