What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles
People with shingles often experience pain, tingling or itching and then a painful rash. The rash can occur anywhere on the body, although it is usually in one strip on the right or left side of the body. The rash consists of groups of small, fluid-filled blisters that dry, scab over, and heal in a few weeks. Healing is usually complete, but some people may be left with scars.
Why Shingles Can Be Painful
Before we walk you through treatment options, lets look at why this virus can cause pain. The varicella zoster virus develops a latency after chickenpox in these nerves called dorsal root ganglia, explains Paul Auwaerter, M.D., clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. What can happen is, for reasons that arent entirely clear, the virus can reactivate within a nerve. The virus then travels along that pathway to the skin, causing a painful rash. In serious cases, it can lead to lasting nerve damage called postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Shingles
Often the first shingles symptoms happen in the area where the rash will appear. A person may have tingling, itching, or pain in this area. When the rash shows up, the pain may be mild or severe.
The rash starts as groups of tiny pimples on one side of the body or the face. It’s often in the shape of a band or belt. The pimples change to pus-filled blisters that break open and scab over in about 710 days. The scabs usually heal and fall off about 24 weeks after the rash starts.
Some kids with shingles also may have a fever and a headache, and might feel tired and achy. Rarely, a child has the pain of shingles without the rash. More severe symptoms can happen, but usually in people over age 50.
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Use An Apple Cider Vinegar Compress To Dry Up Blisters
Apple cider vinegar has been traditionally used for tackling rashes caused by shingles and chickenpox. Apply a compress of apple cider vinegar diluted with an equal quantity of warm water or add 2 to 4 cups of apple cider vinegar to a tub of warm bath water and enjoy a long soak. The acidity of vinegar can help quicken the drying of blisters and ease itching. However, this remedy is not recommended on broken skin or open blisters.67
How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will do a complete physical exam and ask about your medical history, specifically about whether you have ever had chickenpox.
Your healthcare provider will likely know right away that it is shingles based on the unique rash. The rash usually appears one area on one side of the body or face. It appears as red spots, small fluid- or pus-filled vesicles, or scabs.
The healthcare provider may also take skin scrapings for testing.
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Eat Good Foods Avoid Toxins
During a shingles bout, you want to avoid anything that may further aggravate your discomfort. Illicit drugs and alcohol may temporarily numb your pain, but they can magnify possible long-term shingles complications, especially nerve damage.
Foods rich in the amino acidarginine but low in the amino acid lysinesuch as nuts, seeds, soy, chocolate, oats, coconut, and white flourmay cause your shingles symptoms to linger. Fresh fish, poultry, and most vegetables usually contain a higher portion of lysine to arginine. You could also consider supplementing with an amino acid mixture formulated with an appropriate balance of all essential amino acids to keep the ratio of lysine to arginine optimal.
You can also boost your lysine and arginine intake with an essential amino acid supplement enriched with citrulline and developed with aging in mind. Learn more here.
Choose foods rich in vitamins C, A, E, folate, and B6. Leafy-green vegetables, like kale and spinach, and citrus fruits are great sources of these vitamins. Avoid sugary, starchy, and processed foods that have little or no nutritional value. Junk foods can hinder your immune system and suppress proper healing.
Opt For Otc Pain Relievers
Over-the-counter options like Tylenol can ease the discomfort of shingles rash and even mild PHN. At least for early pain, we often use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , like ibuprofen or naxopren, Dr. Auwaerter notes. Theyre easy to pick up at any drugstore, but theyre not always ideal for frequent and/or long-term use. NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation and stomach ulcers, and can harm the kidneys unless taken with large volumes of water. If you experience abdominal pain or constipation, ask your doctor to help you find another option.
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Articles On Shingles Treatment
The virus that causes chickenpox is also what causes shingles. Itâs called varicella zoster. It can lie quietly in your nerves for decades after causing chickenpox but suddenly wake up and become active.
The main symptom of shingles is a painful rash that comes up on one side of your body or face. See your doctor as soon as you can if you think you might have this condition.
Skin Care And Itch Relief For Shingles
To relieve itching and discomfort, try:
- A cool, wet compresses on the affected skin
- Soothing baths and lotions, such as colloidal oatmeal bath, starch baths, or calamine lotion
- Zostrix, a cream that contains capsaicin
- Antihistamines to reduce itching
Keep your skin clean. Throw away bandages you use to cover your skin sores. Throw away or wash in hot water clothing that has contact with your skin sores. Wash your sheets and towels in hot water.
While your skin sores are still open and oozing, avoid all contact with anyone who has never had chickenpox, especially pregnant women.
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How Is Shingles Treated
There is no cure for shingles, but antiviral medicine may relieve the symptoms and help prevent complications. See your doctor for a prescription of antiviral medicines as soon as possible after symptoms develop. Treatment should be started within 3 days of the shingles rash appearing.
If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether antivirals are right for you.
Over-the counter medicines, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can be used for pain relief. If over-the-counter medicines are not controlling your pain, your doctor may prescribe other medicines.
There are several things you can do to help manage the condition. They include the following.
What Can I Do For The Pain
To help with the pain of shingles, your doctor might have you take an over-the-counter pain medicine. This could include acetaminophen or ibuprofen .
Applying a medicated anti-itch lotion to the blisters might reduce the pain and itching. Placing cool compresses soaked in water mixed with white vinegar on the blisters and sores might also help.
If shingles causes severe pain, your doctor might prescribe a stronger pain medicine.
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I Think I Have Shingles What Should I Do
Repeat after me: Call your doctor right away, within 72 hours. The earlier the better.
You should start taking an antiviral medication, preferably valacyclovir or famciclovir, within 72 hours of your symptoms starting to help reduce the severity of the infection, how long your skin rash lasts, and how painful it gets. If its been more than 72 hours, you should still talk to your provider. Treatment can still help, especially if you still see new rashes showing up.
Is Shingles Prevention Possible Is There A Shingles Vaccine
Prevention of shingles in people who have contracted chickenpox is difficult, since the factors that trigger reactivation are not yet defined. However, if a person is never infected with the virus, shingles will not develop. Furthermore, there are at least two methods that are currently used to reduce the incidence of shingles.
First, the VZV vaccine, otherwise known as the chickenpox vaccine, may decrease the incidence of shingles by enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight off VZV or keep this virus inactive. This vaccine is usually administered to children, but the immunity may decline in about 15-20 years. The single-dose vaccine dose is given to babies 12-18 months of age. Most vaccine side effects, if they occur, are mild and range from a rash, skin redness, and swelling to small chickenpox lesions, usually at the injection site. Boosters of this vaccine for use in adults are now being investigated and may help prevent shingles in the future.
Shingrix is the vaccine the CDC currently recommends as the preferred shingles vaccine. Two doses about 2-6 months apart are more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and PHN, and it is recommended for use in people 50 and over. Side effects of Shingrix may occur and last about 2-3 days and may include redness and swelling at the inoculation site. Some individuals may experience muscle pain, headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, and nausea.
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Wear Loose Clothing For Added Comfort
Dont overlook the pain that can come from chafing. Which is why it makes sense to swap form-fitting garb for softer lounge wear to make the healing process more comfortable in those excruciating first few weeks. Many people wear loose-fitting clothes so it doesnt irritate the area, Dr. Auwaerter confirms. Sounds like the perfect excuse to wear sweatpants or even work from home in your PJs, so go ahead and loosen up!
What Are The Risks Associated With Shingles
Some people experience pain around the rash site for a month or morepain that is severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
Scratching the rash can also cause a secondary infection if harmful bacteria get into the sores.
Shingles on the face can involve the eyes, which is serious because it can cause scarring and blindness.
The occurrence and severity of shingles and its complications increase with age.
How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Shingles
A dermatologist can often diagnose shingles by looking at the rash on your skin.
If there is any question about whether you have shingles, your dermatologist will scrape a bit of fluid from a blister. This will be sent to a lab where a doctor will look at the fluid under a high-powered microscope.
When you have shingles, the fluid contains the virus that causes shingles. Seeing the virus confirms that you have shingles.
Your dermatologist will also ask about your symptoms. Shingles tends to be painful.
When the shingles rash spreads to an eye, it can affect your eyesight
You can reduce this risk by seeing an ophthalmologist immediately.
What Medications Help For Shingles Pain
Pain from shingles can be very distressing. If you need help managing your pain, talk to your provider about the options below. The right one for you will depend on many factors, like how bad your pain is, other medications youre taking, and any other health issues you have.
None of these options are a replacement for the antivirals above, and they are generally for short-term use, since longer use can increase your risk for side effects.
NSAIDs. For shingles pain, start with NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You can find these over the counter on pharmacy store shelves, and they include popular medications like , , and . These are meant for short-term relief of mild to moderate pain.
Glucocorticoids. For more severe pain, glucocorticoids like may help. They may also speed up healing from shingles.
Opioid pain medications. Lastly, you can ask your provider about an opioid pain medication like oxycodone or hydrocodone/acetaminophen. These are also for short-term treatment. Opioids come with a risk for causing dependency and addiction, among other side effects.
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Where In The Body The Vaccination Is Given And How Many You Will Need
Like most vaccinations, the vaccine will be given in your upper arm. You will only have the vaccination once.
If you have the Zostavax vaccine, you will just need one injection. If you are not eligible for the live vaccine, you will need 2 doses of the Shingrix vaccine 2 months apart to give you the best protection. Once your course is completed, you will not need any more shingles vaccines.
Soak In A Colloidal Oatmeal Bath
This DYI option hasnt been tested for shingles specifically but experts say it may provide some skin relief while your rash is still acting up. Colloidal oatmeal is made by grinding oats into a fine powder . A study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that this natural remedy has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can make it helpful in treating irritated skin. Add colloidal oatmeal to a bath of cool or lukewarm water and soak for about 10 minutes, once per day, for as long as your rash lasts.
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Hearing Loss And Facial Weakness
Complications of herpes zoster oticus and Ramsay Hunt syndrome might include hearing loss and facial weakness. For most people, these are temporary symptoms, but it is possible for the damage to become permanent, especially if shingles is left untreated.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome accounts for up to 12% of facial paralysis. In some cases, it has a worse outcome than Bells palsya condition that causes temporary weakness in the muscles of the face.
Who Is Most At Risk Of Getting Shingles
Although any person who has had chickenpox can get shingles, most people who do so are older than 50 or have a weakened immune system. For example, a person might be susceptible if they have cancer, take medicines that weaken their immune system, or have HIV or AIDS, even if they are younger than 50.
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How Do People Get Shingles
People get shingles when the virus that causes chicken pox, varicella zoster, is reactivated in their body. The varicella zoster virus doesn’t leave the body, even after a person has recovered from chicken pox. It can flare up again, causing shingles, often many years after a person has had chicken pox. The virus tends to reactivate when a person’s immune system is weakened because of another health problem.
How Is Shingles Diagnosed And Treated
If you think you might have shingles, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Its important to see your doctor no later than three days after the rash starts. The doctor will confirm whether you have shingles and can make a treatment plan. Most cases can be diagnosed from a visual examination. If you have a condition that weakens the immune system, your doctor may order a shingles test. Although there is no cure for shingles, early treatment with antiviral medications can help the blisters clear up faster and limit severe pain. Shingles can often be treated at home.
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