Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How To Make Shingles Less Painful

Check If You Have Shingles

How to treat shingles

The first signs of shingles can be:

  • a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
  • a headache or feeling generally unwell

A rash will appear a few days later.

Usually you get the shingles rash on your chest and tummy, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face, eyes and genitals.

The rash appears as blotches on your skin, on 1 side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.

From Oatmeal Baths To Cold Compresseslearn How To Soothe Shingles Pain And Itching With These At

Medically reviewed in June 2022

Shingles is a painful, blistering rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus , the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, VZV remains in the body in an inactive state. Shingles occurs when the virus becomes active again, and most often appears as a single band of blisters that wraps one side of the torso, though it can appear on any part of the body. Its estimated that one in three people in the United States will experience shingles at some point in their lifetime.

While there is no cure for shingles, there are antiviral treatments available that can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the infection. Antiviral treatments should be started within the first 48 to 72 hours, and preferably within the first 24 hoursif you or a loved one has shingles, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

How to soothe shingles at home In addition to following the instructions for shingles care given to you by your healthcare provider, the ideas below may help you get relief from the itching and pain.

Apply a lotion or cream During the blistering phase of shingles you can apply calamine lotion to soothe shingles pain and itching. Be sure to wash your hands and keep the nozzle of the lotion bottle clean in order to prevent infection. Once the blisters have scabbed over, you may want to try capsaicin cream, which is used to relieve neuralgia, or nerve pain in the skin.

How To Treat And Prevent Shingles

Shingles is treated using antiviral medications, such as:

To manage shingles pain, you can also use numbing creams like lidocaine, or place a cool, wet washcloth on your skin.

It’s important to get treatment as quickly as possible because, “people with shingles can develop long-term pain or itch after the shingles resolves if the virus does too much damage,” Kim says.

To stop yourself from spreading varicella-zoster to anyone else, try to cover up your rash when possible and avoid directly touching it.

The best way to prevent shingles is to get a shingles vaccine. The newest vaccine, called Shingrix, is 85% to 90% effective at preventing shingles in people who have already had chickenpox. If you have never had chickenpox, you will need to get the chickenpox vaccine instead.

Also Check: Can I Get Shingles If I Had The Vaccine

What Does Early Stages Of Shingles Look Like

Shingles progress through several stages as the virus replicates in your body. Shingles start as a rash with red bumps, known as papules, distributed most frequently over your back and torso.

Within several days, grouped blisters are present. Within seven to ten days, the vesicles dry up and crust.

The early stage of shingles looks like small, red, raised, solid pimples or an inflamed rash. These are tiny, raised bumps on the skin. Eventually, these bumps blister and later crust. The beginning stages of shingles create tingling and localized pain.

The early stages of shingles are also described as itching, burning, or deep pain. People who have had shingles also described the early stages as similar to the beginning of the flu.

Study Explains Why Patients With Shingles Feel Pain

Shingles.....: I have shingles for the 5th time...

by FAPESP

In most cases, chickenpox is a benign childhood infection with symptoms that disappear within 10 days. However, the Varicella zoster virus that causes it remains dormant in the patient forever. In some cases, the virus can be reactivated years later, causing a different disease known as herpes zoster, or shingles.

One of the first and most unpleasant symptoms of shingles is neuralgia, or constant intense pain affecting mainly the nerves of the chest and neck, the trigeminal nerve in the face, and the lower back. The pain may be accompanied by paresthesia, a feeling of pins and needles, tingling, prickling, itching, numbness, burning and/or cold). A painful blistering skin rash often develops.

Researchers affiliated with the University of São Paulo have published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience describing how the immune mechanisms triggered by the reactivated virus change the way that sensory neurons work. The authors say that their discoveries lay a foundation for novel treatments not only to combat acute pain but also to prevent it from becoming chronic, a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia.

Almost all adult humans carry VZV, he added. VZV usually lies dormant in the ganglia, clusters of sensory neurons that project to different parts of the body. An unexplained decrease in immunity leads to VZV reactivation in some people, causing inflammation of the ganglia. Shingles usually affects people over 60.

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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.

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.

Also Check: What Helps With Nerve Pain From Shingles

What Is The Outlook For People With Recurring Shingles

Shingles usually clears up within two to six weeks.

In a small number of cases, the pain can remain once the rash has healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia . Up to 2 percent of people who get shingles have PHN for five years or more. The risk increases with age.

Recurring shingles isnt preventable. You can reduce your risk by getting the shingles vaccine, even after youve had shingles.

A showed that people who had the shingles vaccine had 51 percent fewer cases of shingles. For people 50-59 years old, the shingles vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 69.8 percent.

People who received the shingles vaccine generally had less severe cases of shingles. They also had

What Triggers A Shingles Outbreak And Who Is Most At Risk

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According to Dr. Gurland, we just dont know why outbreaks happen some researchers have linked shingles with periods of excess stress, but most people who get stressed dont get shingles.

However, shingles is more common in patients whose immune systems arent functioning normally due to cancer, medications, other infections, and other health conditions. While you dont need an immune deficiency to get shingles, said Dr. Gurland, a significant minority of patients who have it also have a suppressed immune system. The risk also increases with age , although Dr. Gurland has seen very young patients develop the disease as it doesnt discriminate.

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Am I At Risk For Shingles

Everyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles. Researchers do not fully understand what makes the virus become active and cause shingles. But some things make it more likely:

  • Older age. The risk of developing shingles increases as you age. About half of all shingles cases are in adults age 60 or older. The chance of getting shingles becomes much greater by age 70.
  • Trouble fighting infections. Your immune system is the part of your body that responds to infections. Age can affect your immune system. So can HIV, cancer, cancer treatments, too much sun, and organ transplant drugs. Even stress or a cold can weaken your immune system for a short time. These all can put you at risk for shingles.

Most people only have shingles one time. However, it is possible to have it more than once.

Avoid The Pain Of Shingles

Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox can develop shingles

Shingles is a painful infection. Some people have the virus hiding in their nerve tissue, and if conditions are right, the virus “awakens.” This may cause a few blisters on the skin or a big rash that is only on one side of the body. The rash may be on the chest and back, at the waist, on the upper arm, or the side of the face and scalp. In healthy people, the rash goes away in 2 to 4 weeks.

Shingles is not likely to spread, but it may cause chickenpox. The same virus that causes chickenpox causes shingles. However, not everyone who had chickenpox will develop shingles.

What are the risk factors for shingles?

Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. But your risk is greater if you:

  • Are age 50 or older

  • Have an illness that weakens your immune system, such as HIV infection

  • Have cancer, especially leukemia or lymphoma

  • Take medicines that suppress your immune system, such as steroids or those given after an organ transplant

Can shingles be prevented?

A vaccine reduces your risk of getting shingles. Half as many people get shingles after being vaccinated. Among those who are treated and then develop shingles, only one third develop after-shingles pain. If you’re older you when you’re vaccinated and you get shingles, your outbreak will be less severe.

How do you know when shingles is coming on?

What is the treatment for shingles?

What causes after-shingles pain?

How serious is after-shingles pain?

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How Long Does It Take For Shingles To Progress

Shingles progresses into blisters over three to five days and begins to crust over after seven to ten days. The rash is preceded by a prodromal phase lasting 48-72 hours or longer, consisting of throbbing pain and numbness in the area affecting the nerve. Once the rash blisters, it can last another three to five days before the lesions scab over.

After the lesions crust over, it may take two to four weeks to heal completely. At this time, pain may still be present. The most painful stage of shingles is when you have fluid-filled blisters. This usually occurs three to five days after the rash first appears.

Skin Care And Itch Relief For Shingles

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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When Should I Get The Shingles Vaccine

The current shingles vaccine is a safe, easy, and more effective way to prevent shingles than the previous vaccine. In fact, it is over 90% effective at preventing shingles. Most adults age 50 and older should get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine, which is given in two doses. You can get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office and at some pharmacies.

You should get the shingles vaccine if you:

  • Have already had chickenpox, the chickenpox vaccine, or shingles
  • Received the prior shingles vaccine called Zostavax
  • Dont remember having had chickenpox

Medicare Part D and private health insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost. Check with Medicare or your health plan to find out if it is covered.

You should not get vaccinated if you:

  • Currently have shingles
  • Are sick or have a fever
  • Had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the shingles vaccine

If you are unsure about the above criteria or have other health concerns, talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine.

Key Points About Shingles

  • Shingles is a common viral infection of the nerves. It causes a painful rash or small blisters on an area of skin.
  • Shingles is caused when the chickenpox virus is reactivated.
  • It is more common in people with weakened immune systems, and in people over the age of 50.
  • Shingles starts with skin sensitivity, tingling, itching, and/or pain followed by rash that looks like small, red spots that turn into blisters.
  • The rash is typically affects just one area on one side of the body or face.
  • Treatment that is started as soon as possible helps reduce the severity of the disease.

Also Check: Is Shingles An Autoimmune Disease

What Increases The Risk Of Long

The risk of developing post-herpetic neuralgia increases with age. Four weeks after getting shingles,

  • 27% of 55- to 59-year-olds and
  • 73% of over 70-year-olds had nerve pain.

Women seem to be more likely to have longer-lasting nerve pain than men. Post-herpetic neuralgia is also more likely to develop if your eyes were affected by shingles.

Why Does Your Arm Hurt After A Shot

Alternatives for Chronic Pain Management in Postherpetic Neuralgia | The Balancing Act

Aside from the tiny pinch you feel from the needle, its fairly normal to feel pain after an injection. Typically, no matter what vaccine youre getting, itll be administered in your upper arm or shoulder. So, thats where you should be prepared to feel some discomfort.

According to Dr. Allan, a couple of things happen during a shot that may cause pain. Once the needle is injected, it releases liquid into your system, which can cause some pain. After that, inflammation sets in after the shot, which leads to the pain or soreness you may experience.

The body starts to amount an immune response because theres something foreign in your body, explains Dr. Allan. So, the immune system recognizes that and creates an inflammatory response, to react to whatever was injected.Dr. Allan also points out that even if you dont feel much discomfort during the injection or shortly after, you may feel some pain later on. It can sometimes take hours to begin to really manifest, he says. Once the immune system becomes more active and starts creating an antibody response, youre going to get some sustained pain and inflammation.

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Help Is Available For Phn

Fortunately,early treatment for shingles can lower your chances of getting PHN.

For some people, the pain becomes refractory, or resistant to treatment, explains Dr. Rosenquist. So we want to treat shingles as fast as we can ideally as soon as somebody feels a tingling or burning sensation, even before a rash develops.

Sheadds that whenever nerve pain is involved, some people respond to treatment andsome dont.

However,medications taken orally or injected that can target the affected nerves may beable to stun the nervous system into behaving properly. That meanstransmitting the appropriate signal to the brain.

How To Manage Shingles Symptoms

Herpes zoster, or shingles, is a viral infection that affects at least one in three Americans at some point in their lives. This infection triggers a painful rash, which typically starts as a stripe of blisters on one side of your torso, but it can appear anywhere on the body.

The same virus that causes chickenpox causes shingles. The varicella-zoster virus, also known as Herpes zoster , is a painful acute infection caused by the reactivation of the dormant Herpes zoster virus, in an individual who has previously had chicken pox, which is caused by the varicella zoster virus . New onset Acute Herpes zoster can be extremely painful even after prompt treatment with standard oral antiviral medication, which include Acyclovir , valacyclovir and famciclovir . None of these rapidly eliminate severe shingles pain. Severe Herpes zoster infections of the face can require intravenous narcotics. The chronic, unremitting pain of postherpetic neuralgia can be devastating and incapacitating.

Although shingles doesnt threaten your life, this condition is typically quite painful. Unfortunately, the pain of shingles can persist long after the blisters heal. When this happens, youre diagnosed with a condition called chronic postherpetic neuralgia.

Keep reading to learn our top shingles management tips!

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Is Shingles Contagious

If you are in contact with someone who has shingles, you will not get the symptoms of shingles yourself. However, direct contact with fluid from a shingles rash can still spread the varicella-zoster virus, which can cause chickenpox in people who have not had chickenpox before or the chickenpox vaccine. The risk of spreading the virus is low if the shingles rash is kept covered.

When To Call A Doctor

The early stages of shingles: Signs and symptoms

if you:

  • Have a rash or blisters on your face, especially near an eye or on the tip of your nose. This can be a warning of eye problems. Treatment can help prevent permanent eye damage.
  • Think you have shingles. Early treatment with antiviral medicines may help reduce pain and prevent complications of shingles, such as disseminated zoster or postherpetic neuralgia .

If you still feel intense pain for more than 1 month after the skin heals, see your doctor to find out if you have PHN. Getting your pain under control right away may prevent nerve damage that may cause pain that lasts for months or years.

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