Tuesday, May 28, 2024

How Do I Treat Shingles

Home Remedies And Lifestyle

How to treat shingles

In addition to triggering an uncomfortable rash, shingles can cause symptoms that are similar to those of other viral infections.

While prescription and over-the-counter drugs can help, one of the most important things you can do while dealing with the illness is to take good care of yourself. If you’re caring for someone else who has shingles, “creature comforts” can be enormously soothing.

Verywell / Laura Porter

Integrate these basic tactics into even the busiest daily routine:

Can You Get Shingles More Than Once

Although possible, its rare to experience shingles more than once. In a 2019 study , researchers found the reoccurrence rate of shingles was 5.3 percent over an average of a 4.4-year follow-up period.

The researchers found that experiencing shingles that lasted more than 30 days significantly increased the risk of reoccurrence. Other risk factors were:

When Should I Seek Emergency Care For A Shingles Rash

While most cases of shingles are mild, several potential complications may require emergent care:

  • Facial rash. A shingles rash on the face is concerning because eye involvement can lead to blindness. This requires an urgent assessment from an ophthalmologist.
  • Loss of hearing or facial movement. Rarely, shingles can lead to hearing loss or facial nerve paralysis.
  • Disseminated herpes zoster. This widespread shingles rash can also affect your organs. It requires hospitalization with intravenous antiviral treatment.
  • Fever. Shingles in addition to fever can be concerning. It may mean you have a superimposed bacterial infection, which could require antibiotics and close observation.
  • Confusion or seizures. Shingles in addition to confusion or seizures could indicate brain inflammation, which requires hospitalization for IV antiviral treatment and close monitoring.

Dr. Megan Soliman is an ABMS board certified internal medicine physician whose main focus in her clinical practice is patient advocacy. Her research interests include adverse effects of medications and herbal supplements. Soliman is enthusiastic about bread and butter medicine, which includes treating patients with the most common diseases. She also has a passion for reaching underserved communities, including both U.S. and international rural communities.

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The Stages Of Shingles Recovery

After the rash develops, which usually appears on only one side of the body, it forms blisters. You may feel like you have the flu or a mild fever. As you recover, you will typically go through these stages:

  • Blisters begin to burst or weep about 5 days after they develop, and lasts from 7 to 10 days. You should take time off from work and other activities during this period, because you can spread the virus to others through the fluid in the blisters. Otherwise, you can return to work when you feel comfortable doing so.
  • The blisters will scab over and begin to heal, which takes from 1 to 3 weeks, unless the rash is on your scalp in which case it can take several months.
  • As they heal, the blisters become smaller and less painful, generally over a period of 3 to 5 weeks.
  • About 10 to 15% of people with shingles will develop chronic nerve pain, which can be severe. Sensitivity to touch at the site of the rash is possible. The older you are, the more likely it is you will develop this disorder, called post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN. The pain often lessens over time. Available treatments include anti-inflammatory injections, nerve blocks, certain tricyclic antidepressants, or capsaicin cream, which is made from chili peppers and can help ease nerve pain.

How Long Does A Shingles Outbreak Last

Fast Shingles Cure

It can take three to five weeks from the time you begin to feel symptoms until the rash totally disappears.

  • First, a few days before the rash appears, you may feel pain in an area on your skin. The pain is described as itching, burning, stabbing or shooting. This usually happens before the rash comes.
  • Next, the raised rash appears as a band or a patch, usually on one side of your body. The rash usually appears around your waistline or on one side of your face, neck, or on the trunk , but not always. It can occur in other areas including your arms and legs.
  • Within three to four days, the rash develops into red, fluid-filled, painful, open blisters.
  • Usually, these blisters begin to dry out and crust over within about 10 days.
  • The scabs clear up about two to three weeks later.
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    Can You Catch Shingles

    Shingles is not contagious. You cant catch it from someone. But, you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles. So, if youve never had chickenpox, try to stay away from anyone who has shingles.

    If you have shingles, try to stay away from anyone who has not had chickenpox or who might have a weak immune system.

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    What Is The Prognosis For Shingles What Are Possible Shingles Complications

    Many cases of shingles go away by themselves, with or without treatment. The rash and pain should be gone in two to three weeks. However, shingles may last longer and be more likely to recur if the person is older, especially older than 50 years of age, or if they have a serious medical problem.

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    Stay Away From Certain Groups Of People If You Have Shingles

    You cannot spread shingles to others. But people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.

    This is because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.

    Try to avoid:

    • pregnant people who have not had chickenpox before
    • people with a weakened immune system like someone having chemotherapy
    • babies less than 1 month old unless you gave birth to them, as your baby should be protected from the virus by your immune system

    Rebooting The Nervous System

    How do I Treat Facial Shingles

    Its like restarting a computer, Dr. Rosenquist says. When its running slowly or acting weird, you restart it. We are trying to turn that nerve off. When it comes back on, hopefully, it will send an appropriate transmission as opposed to a pain transmission.

    Treatmentoptions for PHN patients include:

  • Intercostal nerve blocks: A local anesthetic can be injected between two ribs.
  • Thoracic epidural injections: Anti-inflammatory medicine can be injected into the space around the spinal cord to decrease nerve root inflammation and reduce pain.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Medications such as amitriptyline may be used to relieve pain.
  • Membrane stabilizers: Medications such as gabapentin can be used to reduce the pain associated with PHN.
  • Capsaicin cream: This topical cream can be applied to the affected area to relieve pain temporarily.
  • Patientswith refractory PHN rarely need opioid pain medication. However,you should be evaluated by a physician. We cant make a blanket statement abouttreatment. It is individualized, she says.

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    Why Does Shingles Appear Mostly On One Side Or In One Area Of The Body

    The virus travels in specific nerves, so you will often see shingles occur in a band on one side of the body. This band corresponds to the area where the nerve transmits signals. The shingles rash stays somewhat localized to an area it does not spread over your whole body. The torso is a common area, as is the face.

    Are There Treatments For Postherpetic Neuralgia

    These are FDA-approved treatments that are considered to be first-choice medications for PHN pain:

    • Anticonvulsants like and , which calm down irregular nerve signals that may be causing pain

    A combination of pill and patch is often used, like pregabalin with a lidocaine patch.

    Other medications that providers might used to treat PHN pain include:

    • Antidepressants like and , which help your brain process pain differently

    • Capsaicin patches , which researchers believe may desensitize the body to pain

    Researchers continue to search for new treatments, too. A recent study that reviewed data from four clinical trials, for example, showed that vitamin B12 injections reduced pain and the need for pain medications in folks with post herpetic neuralgia. It even worked better than lidocaine. Worth talking to your doc about.

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    Treatment Of Pain After Shingles

    Treatment for people with PHN may include:

    • Nerve blocks: Local anesthetic or alcohol injected directly into the nerve affected
    • Thoracic epidural injections: Local injection in the space around the spinal cord
    • Antidepressant medications: Such as amitriptyline
    • Membrane stabilizers: Such as gabapentin
    • Capsaicinapplication: Topical cream applied to the affected area

    Natural Remedies For Shingles

    3 Ways to Treat Throat Shingles

    Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. The varicella zoster virus causes this viral infection. Its the same virus that causes chickenpox.

    If you had chickenpox as a child, the shingles virus lies dormant in your body. The virus can reactivate later in life and cause a shingles rash. The rash can occur on any part of your body but typically only affects small sections.

    Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles. The rash and fluid-filled blisters form within a couple of days after the onset of pain. Some people with shingles also have a fever, sensitivity to light, and fatigue.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , about 1 in 3 people in the United States will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime.

    The shingles virus can last between two and six weeks. Shingles isnt life-threatening, but some people experience postherpetic neuralgia. This is when nerve fibers become damaged, causing shingles pain that lasts for weeks or months after the rash clears.

    Theres no cure for shingles, but your doctor can prescribe antiviral medication to help shorten the duration of the virus and reduce symptoms.

    Although an antiviral is an effective treatment for shingles, its not the only option. Several natural remedies may also reduce pain and discomfort.

    Dry your body completely and then wash your towel to avoid spreading the virus to others.

    • orange and yellow fruits

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    Common Symptom Of Shingles

    The most common symptom of shingles is red, itchy, and painful rashes, which are smallpox marks that often occur on the buttocks, lower back, neck, cheeks, trunk, or face. It can also spread to anywhere on your body.

    The rashes come in patches, and this makes the rashes highly noticeable. When the rashes develop into blisters filled with fluid, you may feel extremely itchy and painful. The rashes may disappear completely within 5-6 weeks. Other common symptoms include fatigue, body pain, fever, headaches, dizziness, and sensitivity to light.

    Can You Get Shingles If You Havent Had Chickenpox

    No. You cant get shingles if youve never had chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If youve never had chickenpox and you come into direct contact with the oozing, blister-like rash of someone with shingles, the varicella-zoster virus can infect you and you would develop chickenpox.

    Once youve had chickenpox, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. This is because the varicella-zoster virus never fully goes away after youve had chickenpox. It lies quietly inactive in your nerve tissue. Later in life, the virus may become active again and appears as shingles.

    Can you get chickenpox more than once?

    Its rare to get chickenpox twice in your life. Once youve had chickenpox, youre usually immune to it for the rest of your life. However, its not totally impossible. If you have a severely weakened immune system , you can get chickenpox a second time. If youve had chickenpox, you are more likely to get shingles at some point in your life than a repeat bout of chickenpox.

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    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 systems 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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    What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Shingles

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    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. Its 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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    What Does It Mean To Let Shingles Run Its Course

    This refers to the typical course a shingles rash takes, even with antiviral treatment:

  • A person may develop a tingling sensation or pain in a certain area on the skin, most commonly on the waistline. This may last for several days.
  • Next, a rash develops in the area. The skin turns red, with fluid-filled bumps . Its during this time that a shingles rash can spread the VZV to another person who hasnt had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
  • After 1 to 2 weeks, these fluid-filled bumps start to crust over. At this point, the rash can no longer spread to other people. It can then take 1 to 2 more weeks for the crusted areas to fully scab over and heal.
  • 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.

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    When Should You Call For Help

    or seek immediate medical care if:

    • You have a new or higher fever.
    • You have a severe headache and a stiff neck.
    • You lose the ability to think clearly.
    • The rash spreads to your forehead, nose, eyes, or eyelids.
    • You have eye pain, or your vision gets worse.
    • You have new pain in your face, or you can’t move the muscles in your face.
    • Blisters spread to new parts of your body.
    • You have symptoms of infection, such as increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.

    Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

    • The rash has not healed after 2 to 4 weeks.
    • You still have pain after the rash has healed.

    What Specialists Treat Shingles

    Shingles Treatment Cream

    Primary care physicians, including internal medicine specialists, family medicine specialists and/or specialists in infectious diseases, can appropriately treat some patients. An emergency medicine physician may start the initial care. However, if there is a chance the eye may be involved, an ophthalmologist should be consulted. If a person is pregnant and gets shingles, they should consult with their ob-gyn physician immediately. For long-term or chronic pain involved in postherpetic neuralgia, a neurologist and/or pain specialists may be involved in the care of the patient.

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    Questions To Ask Your Doctor

    • Ive had chickenpox. Am I at risk of developing shingles?
    • What is the best treatment for my shingles?
    • The pain from shingles isnt going away. What can I do to make myself more comfortable?
    • Im on treatment for shingles. When should I call my doctor if things dont get better?
    • I have shingles and my children havent had the chickenpox vaccine. Should I get them vaccinated?
    • Is the shingles vaccine right for me?
    • Are there any risks associated with the shingles vaccine?
    • Will my post-herpetic neuralgia ever go away?
    • If Ive never had the chickenpox, should I still get the shingles vaccination?

    Can Shingles Be Prevented

    There are 2 vaccines available to reduce the likelihood of developing shingles, Zostavax and Shingrix. If you are over 50, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 60 and is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70 to 79.

    Vaccination will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. The vaccine used to protect against shingles is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.

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