What Are The Pain Complications Of Shingles
Many sufferers have described the pain as extremely severe, and some even require narcotic pain-relief medications.
A blistering rash usually accompanies the outbreak. New blisters continue to appear for several days, and the entire outbreak can take weeks to heal. Blisters may cover the entire path of the affected nerve, or the involvement may be patchy. Involvement of the eyes during a shingles outbreak can be particularly serious, since scarring of the cornea and permanent vision loss can result.
Another debilitating complication of shingles is known as postherpetic neuralgia. In postherpetic neuralgia, the pain of shingles persists even after the rash has healed. The diagnosis is made when pain lasts for over 30 days after an outbreak. This pain can last for weeks, months, or even years. Up to 15% of people with shingles have this persistent pain, and it is not understood why the pain persists in some people, but it is likely that some type of nerve damage or inflammation occurs during the outbreak that leads to continued pain.
Lidocaine Cream And Patches
PHN is a complication of shingles characterized by long-term nerve pain after your rash disappears. The CDC says that about 10 to 18 percent of people experience PHN after shingles.
Lidocaine is often administered in patches. The study linked above notes that up to 3 patches can be applied in a 12-hour window.
Antiviral Medications For Shingles
Antiviral medications are prescription drugs that can reduce the length and severity of your outbreak if they are given early enough. Examples of these drugs include acyclovir , valacyclovir , and famciclovir . It has been shown that antiviral medications can help prevent the development of postherpetic neuralgia and reduce its duration if it does occur.
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Can One Relieve Shingles With Over The Counter Creams
Shingles is a painful rash that can happen to people who have had chickenpox or been immunized against it. Shingles is not contagious and cannot spread from person to person as chickenpox can. However, the virus lives in your nerve roots and can come out of remission for many reasons, such as stress or a weakened immune system.
The pain from the shingles can be excruciating, and many people wonder if there are over-the-counter remedies for relief. In this article, we will discuss the treatment options available for shingles and whether over-the-counter creams can relieve shingles symptoms.
Figure Out Whats Triggering Your Itch
Summer brings out poison ivy and other itch-inducing plants, lots of bugs, and, of course, sunburn, says Jessica Krant, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City and a dermatologist in private practice in Manhattan. With these, its easy to pinpoint the problem.
But other causes of itching may not be so obvious. Fungal infections and contact allergies are common in warmer weather. And though dry skin is a far more frequent problem in the winter months, it can crop up now as well.
If youre unsure why youre itching or youre extremely uncomfortableunable to sleep through the night because of the need to scratch, for instancecheck in with your doctor.
Itching is one of the most common complaints in visits to a dermatologist, but itching is caused by so many different things its hard to have one set protocol or method for addressing it, Krant says. A careful history and physical exam by the dermatologist can go a long way in identifying the true cause and fixing it as fast as possible.
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You Can Prevent Shingles
The good news is that you can avoid this misery entirely by getting a fairly new vaccine thats proving to be highly effective. There has actually been a shingles vaccine since 2006, but the first incarnation, Zostavax, only prevented shingles in about 50% of people. Plus, Zostavax was made from live viruses so people with compromised immune systems couldnt get it even though they are the ones most at risk for shingles.
The new vaccine, Shingrix, available since 2017, does not use live viruses in its formulation so its safer and has been found to be more than 90% effective. Shingrix is whats known as an adjuvanted vaccine, meaning it has extra ingredients that help create a stronger immune response. A booster shot may be needed eventually, but experts currently estimate the vaccine provides protection for at least seven years. Its available for adults age 50 and up and requires two doses given between two and six months apart.
On the slim chance you do get shingles after being vaccinated, the illness will be much milder and you will be less likely to develop PHN.
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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When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. Starting treatment with antiviral medicines within 3 days of the rash appearing should reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of further complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following:
- symptoms that affect your eye area
- a temperature of 38°C or higher
You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medicine that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.
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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What To Do If You Think You Have Shingles
If you suspect that you have shingles, its important to visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible. According to the American Academy of Dermatology , treating shingles within the first 72 hours gives you the best chance of minimizing complications like nerve pain.
Antiviral medications or other medications only available by prescription can shorten the duration of your shingles or lessen the severity.
If a cream or other topical isnt reducing your pain, its a good idea to visit your doctor again. They may recommend trying another treatment like capsaicin cream instead of lidocaine.
If a product is making your symptoms worse, its important to stop taking it right away.
You may be able to reduce your symptoms using home remedies while youre waiting to see a healthcare professional. These include applying a wet cold compress or taking a cool bath.
Are There Alternative Treatments
Some studies show that various alternative treatments, from acupuncture to supplements, can offer relief. The research isnât complete, but some shows promise. Check with your doctor before you try any of these:
TENS . This therapy uses tiny electrical pulses to relieve pain. A TENS unit is about the size of a smartphone and comes with small patches called electrodes. You put them over the painful area and turn the unit on and off as your pain comes and goes.
Traditional Chinese medicine: These treatments aim to restore balance in your body. They include acupuncture, the ancient practice of inserting very thin needles into your skin at specific points. Also, moxibustion and cupping, two types of heat therapy, are supposed to draw out toxins. These treatments may be done in combination.
Creams and other skin treatments: A mixture of liquid dimethyl sulfoxide and idoxuridine, an antiviral drug, may reduce swelling and the number of blisters you have when you put it on your rash. And chlorophyll, the chemical that gives plants their green color, is also used directly on the rash as a cream or saline solution.
Supplements: Youâll find a long list of herbs, pills, and oils that claim to relieve shingles. Most have no research to back them up, but there are a couple of exceptions. Papain, a protein found in papayas, is sold in capsules. And manuka and clover honeys can be put directly on your skin. Very early studies on both show they may be helpful.
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Oral Pain Relief Medicines
e.g. paracetamol , aspirin ibuprofen
e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen diclofenac , naproxen
- paracetamol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories , which include ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen, relieve pain and reduce fever
- paracetamol is a safe choice for most people, but it is important not to take more than recommended. Paracetamol is an ingredient in many cold and flu remedies, so be careful not to double dose
- the maximum daily dose of paracetamol for an adult is 4 g , and no more than 1 g every 4 hours.
- aspirin and NSAIDs are not suitable for everyone. Children under 16 years old must not take aspirin because it can cause Reyes syndrome, which is a serious condition. It should also be avoided by adolescents under 16 years old who have a viral illness
- check with your pharmacist before taking aspirin or NSAIDs if you:
- have a history of stomach problems, such as ulcers or indigestion
- have asthma some asthmatics find their condition is made worse by these types of medicines
- have kidney problems or a heart condition
- take other medications
- have bleeding or bruising problems
- have an allergy to aspirin or NSAIDs
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
- are elderly you may be at more risk of side effects
- are due to have any type of surgery within the next couple of days
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.
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Is Shingles Contagious
It is not possible to catch shingles from someone else with the condition, or from someone with chickenpox.
However, it is possible for someone who has never had chickenpox to catch it from someone with shingles, as the shingles blisters contains the live virus.
In the UK, chickenpox is so common during childhood that 9 out of 10 adults have already had it and will not be at risk from someone with shingles.
What Are The Best Over
As mentioned above, antiviral medications are prescription medications. Therefore, over-the-counter creams do not provide any antiviral activity, but they primarily work to relieve redness, pain, and itching symptoms. Topical creams containing lidocaine, capsaicin, or calamine may be helpful. Alternative treatments that can be topically applied include witch hazel cream, essential oils, manuka or clover honey, and chlorophyll. It is advised that you check with your doctor to make sure that these will not interact negatively with your existing medication before applying them.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles
The initial symptoms of shingles include:
- a burning, tingling or itching sensation
- a stabbing sensation
- numbness in the affected area of the body
- sensitivity to light
- fever and/or headache
Two to 3 days after these symptoms appear, a painful rash will appear on the sensitive area of skin, usually on one side of the body in the area of one skin nerve .
At first this rash consists of painful red bumps that quickly develop into fluid-filled blisters, which will eventually have a crusty surface. The rash can last for 10 to 15 days.
What Is Calamine Lotion
Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter medicine you can use to treat mild itchiness . The topical pink lotion can help relieve itchiness, pain and discomfort caused by conditions such as bug bites, chickenpox and poison ivy. You can also use this medication to dry out oozing skin irritations and protect your skin. You should only use calamine lotion on your skin . The medicine can be dangerous if swallowed.
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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?
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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Postherpetic Neuralgia Pain: What Works, What Doesnt
Doctors call it postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. Its caused by nerve damage left behind by a case of shingles. Shingles itself comes from reactivation of a chickenpox virus, varicella zoster. The virus travels down nerve fibers to cause a painful skin rash.
When the rash goes away, the pain usually goes with it. But for 12% to 15% of people the pain remains. If your shingles pain lasts eight to 12 weeks after the rash goes away, youre part of an unfortunate minority, says pain researcher Andrew S.C. Rice, MD, of Imperial College, London.
Among people with PHN, some have their pain resolve in the first year to 18 months after the shingles rash goes away, Rice tells WebMD. But if they have pain longer than that, it is not going to go away on its own. In either case, a person must deal with the pain.
These Home Remedies Should Provide Relief During A Case Of Shingles
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Anyone who had chickenpox as a kid remembers the red, painfully itchy blister-like rash, and perhaps the fever and fatigue that came along with it. But even though it’s true you’re now inoculated against chickenpox for life, there’s one pox-related complication you may not have considered: Shingles.
Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus , and causes a painful, itchy rash in one place on the body. Shingles is most common in adults over 50 years of age in fact, about half of people over age 80 may experience it.
Shingles often begin as pain and itching in the skin before a red rash appears one to two days later, with small, water-filled blisters. These blisters soon rupture and scar over, healing and fading over the course of a few weeks. This process can be extremely uncomfortable and painful, making even the littlest actions difficult.
Here’s how to minimize discomfort and pain with stuff you probably already have at home:
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