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.
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.
Can Shingles Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent shingles is through vaccination. Vaccinate your children for chickenpox. This vaccine reduces their risk for getting chickenpox. You cant get shingles unless youve had chickenpox first.
When you are older, get the shingles vaccine. It is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older. It can prevent shingles. People who have had shingles should get the vaccine to help stop the disease from reoccurring. Common side effects of the vaccine are headache, plus redness, swelling, itching, and soreness at the injection site.
The shingles vaccine is not recommended for anyone who:
- Has had an allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
- Has an allergy to any component of the shingles vaccine
- Has a weakened immune system due to conditions such as leukemia, HIV, or AIDS
- Is receiving treatment for cancer
- Is being treated with drugs that suppress their immune system, including high-dose steroids
- Is pregnant or might become pregnant within 4 weeks of getting the vaccine
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Is There A Shingles Vaccination
In the UK there is a shingles vaccine immunisation programme for people aged 70 years to protect against herpes zoster. There is also a catch-up programme which offers the vaccine to anyone aged between 70 and 79 years who has previously missed out on immunisation. The vaccine is licensed for people aged over 50 years, and if you are not eligible for the vaccine on the NHS, your pharmacist may be able to provide the vaccine as a private service.
The chickenpox vaccine is not routinely given to children in the UK but is offered to people who are in close contact with someone who is particularly vulnerable to chickenpox or its complications – eg, people with a weakened immune system.
Treatment Of Herpes Zoster
The treatment of herpes zoster has three major objectives: treatment of the acute viral infection, treatment of the acute pain associated with herpes zoster and prevention of postherpetic neuralgia. Antiviral agents, oral corticosteroids and adjunctive individualized pain-management modalities are used to achieve these objectives.
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Before Taking This Medicine
You should not use gabapentin if you are allergic to it.
To make sure gabapentin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:
heart disease or
if you are a day sleeper or work a night shift.
Some people have thoughts about suicide while taking this medicine. Children taking gabapentin may have behavior changes. Stay alert to changes in your mood or symptoms. Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor.
It is not known whether this medicine will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
Seizure control is very important during pregnancy, and having a seizure could harm both mother and baby. Do not start or stop taking gabapentin for seizures without your doctor’s advice, and tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.
If you are pregnant, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry to track the effects of gabapentin on the baby.
It may not be safe to breastfeed while using this medicine. Ask your doctor about any risk.
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.
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How Should I Take Valacyclovir
Take valacyclovir exactly as it was prescribed for you. Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
Start taking valacyclovir as soon as possible after the first appearance of symptoms . This medicine might not be as effective if you first start taking it 1 or 2 days after the start of your symptoms.
Some herpes infections need to be treated for longer than others. Use this medicine for the full prescribed length of time. Your symptoms may improve before the infection is completely cleared. Skipping doses may increase the risk of your virus becoming resistant to antiviral medicine.
You may take valacyclovir with or without food.
Tell your doctor if a child taking this medicine cannot swallow the valacyclovir tablet.
Drink plenty of water while you are taking valacyclovir to keep your kidneys working properly.
Lesions caused by herpes viruses should be kept as clean and dry as possible. Wearing loose clothing may help to prevent irritation of the lesions.
Store valacyclovir tablets at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
Antiviral Medicines For Shingles
Antiviral medicines used to treat shingles include aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. An antiviral medicine is not a cure for shingles, it does not kill the virus but works by stopping the virus from multiplying. So, it may limit the severity of symptoms of the shingles episode.
An antiviral medicine is most useful when started in the early stages of shingles . However, in some cases your doctor may still advise you have an antiviral medicine even if the rash is more than 72 hours old – particularly in elderly people with severe shingles, or if shingles affects an eye.
Antiviral medicines are not advised routinely for everybody with shingles. As a general rule, the following groups of people who develop shingles will normally be advised to take an antiviral medicine:
- If you are over the age of 50. The older you are, the more risk there is of severe shingles or complications developing and the more likely you are to benefit from treatment.
- If you are of any age and have any of the following:
- Shingles that affects the eye or ear.
- A poorly functioning immune system .
- Shingles that affects any parts of the body apart from the trunk .
- Moderate or severe pain.
If prescribed, a course of an antiviral medicine normally lasts seven days.
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If My Shingles Rash Is Mild Or Has Mostly Healed Do I Need To See A Doctor
Its a good idea to see a doctor whenever you have a case of shingles, no matter how mild.
Prompt antiviral treatment not only decreases the duration and severity of the rash but can also decrease the chance of developing post-herpetic neuralgia. Post-herpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles characterized by long-term, debilitating pain.
If your rash has mostly healed, its still a good idea to see a doctor so they can monitor the rash for changes or complications, such as a bacterial skin infection that forms on top of your existing rash. This is known as a superimposed infection.
Shingles On Your Face
Shingles usually occurs on one side of your back or chest, but you can also get a rash on one side of your face.
If the rash is close to or in your ear, it can cause an infection that could lead to:
- loss of hearing
- issues with your balance
- weakness in your facial muscles
Shingles inside your mouth can be very painful. It may be difficult to eat and may affect your sense of taste.
A shingles rash on your scalp can cause sensitivity when you comb or brush your hair. Without treatment, shingles on the scalp can lead to permanent bald patches.
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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.
How To Use Famciclovir
This medication works best when started at the first sign of an outbreak, as directed by your doctor. It may not work as well if you delay treatment.
The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to treatment.
This medication works best when the amount of drug in your body is kept at a constant level. Take this drug at evenly spaced intervals. To help you remember, take it at the same times each day.
Continue to take this medication until the full prescribed amount is finished. Do not change your dose, skip any doses, or stop this medication early without your doctor’s approval.
Tell your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.
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Steroid Medication For Shingles
Steroids help to reduce swelling . A short course of steroid tablets may be considered in addition to antiviral medication. This may help to reduce pain and speed healing of the rash. However, the use of steroids in shingles is controversial. Your doctor will advise you. Steroids do not prevent PHN.
Whats The Difference Between Cream Lotion And Ointment
Ointments, lotions, and creams are three types of substances you can apply to your skin to help manage shingles.
These topicals are similar, but there are slight differences in their makeup. The primary difference is the amount of water and oil they contain.
According to this 2016 primer, creams are made up of about equal parts oil and water and often have moisturizing properties. Theyre thicker than lotions but thinner than ointments.
Lotions are similar to creams, but they are made up mostly of water. They have less oil and have a thinner consistency. Because theyre thinner, your skin absorbs them more quickly. Some lotions are oil-free.
Ointments are the thickest of the three. They are made to stay on top of your skin instead of being absorbed immediately. Ointments are made up of at least 80 percent oil.
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Home Remedies And Lifestyle
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:
Which Groups To Avoid If You Have Shingles
Pregnant women who have not had chickenpox should avoid people with shingles. See the separate leaflet called Chickenpox Contact in Pregnancy for more details. Also, if you have a poor immune system , you should avoid people with shingles. These general rules are to be on the safe side, as it is direct contact with the rash that usually passes on the virus.
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Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 As Soon As You Suspect Shingles
You might need medicine to help speed up your recovery and avoid longer-lasting problems.
This works best if taken within 3 days of your symptoms starting.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or .
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to treat you.
Ask your GP surgery for an urgent appointment.
Topicals Are Not A Substitute For Medical Treatment
Topical products can help you manage your symptoms. But they arent a substitute for proper medical treatment.
Its important to visit your doctor if youre dealing with shingles. Your doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs and other medications that can shorten the duration of your infection and help you avoid severe complications.
The following creams may be able to help you manage shingles symptoms.
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Will Shingles Go Away Without Treatment
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus . This is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
This virus remains dormant in a part of your nervous system called the dorsal root ganglion. It can be reactivated during times of stress or illness, or when the immune system is weakened by an autoimmune disease or cancer.
The risk of developing shingles is relatively low for healthy young adults about 4 out of 1,000 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Its much higher for those above age 60. Shingles affects about 1 out of 100 people in this older age group, the CDC says.
Generally, a case of shingles rash resolves within 3 to 4 weeks. It can resolve without treatment, but antiviral treatment can shorten both the duration and severity of the rash.
Treat Your Body And Mind
You can get worn down mentally when youâre in constant pain. Stress can make it seem even worse. Self-care starts with treating your rash, but donât stop there. Your mind and emotional state need to be cared for as well.
5. Stick with good habits: Your bodyâs working hard to fight the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles. To give it the right support, you can:
- Eat nutritious food and have regular meals. Ask someone to make a run to the grocery store for fresh fruit and such if youâre not up for it.
- Try to get a good nightâs sleep and rest anytime you need to.
- Do gentle exercises, such as walking or stretching. Light activity can help take your mind off the pain. Keep it simple though, and check with your doctor if youâre trying something new.
6. Distract yourself: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to put your focus elsewhere. Here are a few things to try:
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How Should I Take Gabapentin
Take gabapentin exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
If your doctor changes your brand, strength, or type of gabapentin, your dosage needs may change. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about the new kind of gabapentin you receive at the pharmacy.
Both Gralise and Horizant should be taken with food.
Neurontin can be taken with or without food.
If you break a Neurontin tablet and take only half of it, take the other half at your next dose. Any tablet that has been broken should be used as soon as possible or within a few days.
Swallow the capsule or tablet whole and do not crush, chew, break, or open it.
Measure liquid medicine carefully. Use the dosing syringe provided, or use a medicine dose-measuring device .
Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly, even if you feel fine. Stopping suddenly may cause increased seizures. Follow your doctor’s instructions about tapering your dose.
In case of emergency, wear or carry medical identification to let others know you have seizures.
This medicine can cause unusual results with certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you are using gabapentin.
Store both the tablets and capsules at room temperature away from light and moisture.
Store the liquid medicine in the refrigerator. Do not freeze.