If you previously had chickenpox, you are at risk for shingles. This condition causes a painful rash and is the result of the dormant varicella-zoster virus reactivating. While non-life threatening, shingles symptoms can be very painful. At Silver Falls Dermatology, patients in Oregon and Washington can find effective treatment options and relief from their shingles symptoms.
What is Shingles?
Shingles is a viral infection which causes a rash, typically on one side of the torso. However, this rash can occur anywhere on the body. Shingles is not life-threatening but can be painful or cause further complications. Early treatment is beneficial to reduce the chance of these complications or lessen the severity of symptoms.
The primary symptom of shingles is a painful rash, which typically occurs in a stripe of blisters. This rash may also include fluid-filled blisters that eventually break and crust. Pain is typically the first symptom of shingles, which can be intense. Shingles can also cause itching, headache, sensitivity to light and fatigue.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus responsible for chickenpox. Patients who have previously had chickenpox have dormant varicella-zoster in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. This virus can reactivate years later as shingles.
Shingles Treatment Options
Shingles cannot be cured, but treatment options are available to reduce complications and offer relief from symptoms. Your provider may recommend antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir or valacyclovir (Valtrex). If you experience severe pain, your provider may also prescribe a medication to relieve this symptom. Some options include:
- Capsaicin topical patches (Qutenza)
- Corticosteroid or local anesthetic injections
- Numbing agents such as lidocaine creams or gels
- Narcotic medications such as codeine
- Tricyclic antidepressants
In addition to these medications, your provider may recommend taking cool baths or using cool compresses to relieve discomfort. Stress can also exacerbate symptoms, so it is best to try to relax as much as possible. Most cases of shingles persist for only two to six weeks. After this time, the condition typically does not recur. Your provider can explain reasonable expectations during your appointment.