Study Assesses Relief Options Against Shingles Pain
- Study Assesses Relief Options Against Shingles Pain
The painkiller oxycodone is effective at treating the acute pain of shingles, an illness that often causes severe pain which can become long-lasting and sometimes even permanent.
The study, published in the April issue of the journal Pain, is one of the first to carefully evaluate different methods to relieve pain during a course of shingles, which many patients say causes the worst pain they have ever experienced. Effective pain treatment is crucial. Not only can the pain of shingles disrupt peoples quality of life, but it is also possible that the less effectively the pain is treated, the more likely it will become a long-term problem that can change a persons life forever.
Shingles is caused by reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same bug that causes chicken pox, and only people who have had chicken pox are vulnerable to shingles. About 20 to 30 percent of people will get shingles at some point in their lives the odds climb to 50 percent for people who live to the age of 85.
For most patients, the first symptom of the infection is pain, quickly followed by a rash where the pain first appeared. The rash appears most often on one side of the chest or face, oftentimes causing dozens of small pimple-sized lesions. Some patients also get flu-like symptoms like a headache and lethargy. The illness usually lasts about three or four weeks.
Lasting Pain After Shingles
Pain that continues for a long time after a shingles rash has disappeared is called post-herpetic neuralgia. This is the most common complication of shingles. Its still not clear how it can be prevented or what the best treatment is.
Shingles typically causes a rash accompanied by pain in the affected area. The pain normally goes away when the rash goes away. This usually happens after two to four weeks. Pain that continues for longer is referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia. The word âpost-herpeticâ means âpost-herpesâ because the pain arises after infection by the herpes zoster virus. In very rare cases pain can come back after a shingles infection, even if it had already gone away and the rash has disappeared.
The main symptom of post-herpetic neuralgia is pain in the nerves . The skin is often overly sensitive and itchy as well. This can make it difficult or painful to wash yourself, turn over in bed, or hug someone. The pain and itching can be very severe and might keep you from sleeping.
How Can Acupuncture Help Shingles Pain
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body known as acupuncture points. The professional who performs this technique is called an acupuncturist. Acupuncturists use single use needles and follow the Clean Needle Technique.
When your acupuncturist inserts the needles, you may feel a tingling sensation. If you experience unbearable pain, let them know.
After inserting the needles, your acupuncturist activates them through electrical stimulation or by gently moving them with their hands, or they may not stimulate them at all. Theyll leave the needles in your skin for up to 30 minutes. This process helps your body to release its own naturally occurring painkillers.
Youll undergo this treatment depending on the severity of your case and how your body responds. Treatment may be necessary daily or weekly.
shows that acupuncture can ease pain in conditions such as migraine and back pain. Various studies have been conducted to see whether acupuncture can also treat shingles pain.
In 2011, a showed that acupuncture could be used for the treatment of shingles pain, or acute herpetic pain. Acupuncture may also improve quality of life and reduce anxiety in people with shingles.
More recently, researchers found that adding acupuncture to traditional antiviral therapy in three key phases of shingles:
- the pain before the blisters appeared
- the time it took for the blisters to scab over
- the time it took for blisters to stop forming
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A Word About The Shingles Vaccine
If you are age 60 or over and have not had shingles, talk to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine. Not only will it reduce your risk of developing shingles, but if you do develop shingles, youll be more likely to have a mild case. And, just as important, youll be much less likely to develop PHN if youve had the vaccine.
When To Seek Care
Early shingles symptoms, such as pain or flu-like feelings, are not obvious signs of a shingles outbreak.
Once a rash appears, you should see your primary care physician or a dermatologist. A trained eye can often diagnose shingles by visually inspecting the rash.
If you have shingles, you may never experience the extreme pain that can often come with it. You may only feel itching and some minor discomfort.
Even without the painful symptoms of shingles, its recommended that you see a healthcare professional and start antiviral treatment within 72 hours of a rashs appearance.
Its especially important to seek prompt medical care if a rash forms near one or both eyes. Shingles in the eye may cause permanent vision loss.
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The Emotional Toll Of Nerve Pain After Shingles
Researchers are not just looking at biological and neurological risk factors for PHN. Dworkin was also a co-author of a study looking at psychological risk factors, too. The results were published in the Journal of Pain in 2005.
âIt certainly looks like psychological stress can be a potent risk factor for PHN,â Dworkin tells WebMD.
The study showed that people with shingles who went on to develop PHN were more likely to have had symptoms of personality disorders, hypochondria, intense worry about their disease, and other bodily complaints.
Dworkin says previous studies have already shown a connection between stress and shingles development.
âOne study even found that the risk of developing PHN was higher in people who were living alone when they developed shingles than people living with others,â Dworkin says, perhaps indicating that social isolation increases the risks of PHN.
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Are There Other Ways To Ease The Pain
Most people with postherpetic neuralgia use medication to control their symptoms. But there are other ways to control the pain, too. They include:
TENS : You use a device that shoots tiny electrical currents into the area of pain on the skin. This helps block the pain.
Cold packs: Try a gel-filled one to numb the area unless cooler objects make your neuralgia worse.
Comfortable clothes: Go for looser fits and fabrics such as cotton and silk.
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Coping With Shingles Pain
If you have shingles, you may be wondering how to cope with the pain:
- Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet to help boost your immune system.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing with natural fiber .
- Establish or maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Utilize home remedies to help soothe pain from blisters.
- Engage in activities that help take your mind off of the pain.
- Establish a routine to help manage stress.
- Seek out support when needed from family and friends as well as professional supportive services.
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.
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How Well Does Shingrix Work
Two doses of Shingrix provide strong protection against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia , the most common complication of shingles.
- In adults 50 to 69 years old with healthy immune systems, Shingrix was 97% effective in preventing shingles in adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective.
- In adults 50 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective in preventing PHN in adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 89% effective.
- In adults with weakened immune systems, Shingrix was between 68% and 91% effective in preventing shingles, depending on their underlying immunocompromising condition.
In people 70 years and older who had healthy immune systems, Shingrix immunity remained high throughout 7 years following vaccination.
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Other Treatment Recommendations For Shingles
If you think you have shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible. This increases the effectiveness of any treatment your doctor will prescribe for you. The treatment doesnt cure shingles. Its meant to help you manage the pain.
Besides acupuncture, you can use other methods to manage your pain. These include:
- antiviral drugs such as Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex
- over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers
- calamine lotion, colloidal oatmeal, andwet compresses
Two vaccines are available for adults ages 50 years and older. The Food and Drug Administration approved Shingrix and Zostavax for use. These vaccines reduce the risk of getting shingles. If an older adult still gets shingles after being vaccinated, the symptoms may be less intense.
Shingrix, made from a dead germ, is the preferred vaccine. People with weakened immune systems can get it. Its risky for this group to get the Zostavax vaccine, which contains a live but weakened germ.
Zostavax has not been sold in the United States since November 18, 2020. If you received this vaccine, the
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?
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Who Gets Postherpetic Neuralgia
About 1 out of 5 people who have shingles will have these sharp, ongoing pains afterward. Certain things can increase your chances of getting it:
- Age: Most people who get postherpetic neuralgia are older than 60.
- Gender: Women seem to get it more than men.
- Early symptoms: People who have numbness, tingling, or itching before a shingles rash even appears tend to get the lingering pain later.
- Pain at the start: If you had severe pain or a rash during the beginning of your outbreak, you have a greater chance of the neuralgia later.
- Other health problems: People with ongoing conditions that can weaken the immune system, like HIV and cancer, seem more likely to get it.
Oatmeal Or Baking Soda Baths
You’ll want to care for your uncomfortable skin safely and effectively while it heals. Soaking in oatmeal or baking soda baths can soothe your skin if you have a shingles rash.
Those home remedies can provide temporary relief for itching and can be soothing, said Dr. Strowd. Look for colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to add to cool bath water. Both of those ingredients can help calm itching and are gentle on the skin.
Grinding oat grain into a fine powder makes up colloidal oatmeal. It softens or soothes the skin because it contains fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. You’ll find colloidal oatmeal at many places that sell health and beauty products.
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How Could Cannabis Help
If you have had chickenpox, then you could get shingles and it would be wise to go out right now and make sure you are fully stocked with topical products. The amount of pain relief that a cannabis cream can give is miraculously effective and instantaneous the second its on the rash, the bad burn pain drops from an excruciating level 9 to a 2.
I dont think I would ever be able handle a shingles outbreak without high THC, edible cannabis. The type of pain I described as electric shocks throughout the nerves can literally cause severe anxiety because its so weird and uncomfortable. Like hitting a mute button, the moment I felt the the edible starting to take effect, it was like it sent all the shocks and pain far away to someplace else.
With such a large concentration of pain receptors residing in the intestines, using edible cannabis to effectively treat the pain caused by shingles, makes sense and it works.
What Is The Connection Between Chickenpox & Shingles
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash typically all over the body, itching, and fever. Before the chickenpox vaccine, nearly everyone in the United States got chickenpox. The chickenpox virus can reactivate, causing shingles. People with shingles may have pain, itching, tingling, and blisters in one area of the body that can last for weeks.
You may be among the 99% of people over the age of 50 years who is at risk for shingles, since the virus that causes chickenpox also causes shingles when it reactivates. One in three people will get shingles in their lifetime.
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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.
Does Stress Increase My Risk Of Shingles
Stress may increase your risk of shingles, however age is the most important risk factor for developing shingles, as most cases of shingles occur in adults 50 years and older.
Im up for almost anything somebody wants to try, whether its something old or new, Im in. But not when I had shingles. I was out. Do anything you can not to get it.
Pat Knaust,former shingles sufferer and GSK spokesperson
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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.
Treating The Pain Of Phn
Exactly how best to deal with the pain is a difficult question. Rice led a research team that looked at 35 clinical trials of various treatments. The findings appear in the July issue of the free-access online journal PloS Medicine.
“The most important thing to realize is these are painkillers,” Rice says. “You are treating the pain, not the disease itself. And this is due to permanent nerve damage. It is like a stroke. We can’t make the nerve damage better, but we can treat the disability. And for PHN, pain is one of those disabilities.”
What helps? Rice’s team found good evidence supporting:
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Preventing The Virus Spreading
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox.
You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping and cannot be covered.
Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people. If you have shingles, avoid:
- women who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox before as they could catch it from you, which may harm their unborn baby
- people who have a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
- babies less than one month old, unless it is your own baby, in which case your baby should have antibodies to protect them from the virus
Once your blisters have dried and scabbed over, you are no longer contagious and will not need to avoid anyone.