About Shingles at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox. Because viral infections cannot be cured, the virus simply lies dormant after recovery from chickenpox and may or may not reactivate during adulthood as shingles.
Shingles is frequently characterized by a large stripe or band of painful blisters around one side of the torso, though it can also show up in patches of varying size on other parts of the body, such as the face or even the scalp.
There is a vaccine for shingles which may help reduce the risk of occurrence. Once a shingles outbreak has begun, there is a variety of options both for easing discomfort and for shortening the outbreak’s duration. Your dermatologist may prescribe antiviral medicines and direct you to over-the-counter medication, depending on the outbreak’s severity. Topical antibiotics can help stop shingles blisters from becoming infected; particularly severe cases of shingles may require the use of corticosteroids.
Shingles can be successfully combated with the antivirals, provided that the medication is taken within three days of onset, or can be treated using pain management treatments such as nerve blocks.
Who is most susceptible to shingles?
Shingles can present themselves with no reason at all. Individuals with a weakened immune system, such as those with immunodeficiency diseases, are particularly susceptible to a shingles outbreak, as are people who have been ill, recently traumatized, or under a significant amount of stress.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Tingling and redness in the affected area
- Fever, headache, and chills
- Upset stomach
What complications may arise from shingles?
If antiviral medication is not taken within three or four days of the onset of shingles, a rare painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia can develop. Postherpetic neuralgia causes a burning sensation that affects the nerves and skin. While most patients improve over time, there is no cure for postherpetic neuralgia but early antiviral treatment and corticosteroid may help alleviate symptoms.
A long-term infection can adversely affect the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, joint and intestinal tract. When the shingles rash is present on the face, particularly near the eye, short- or long-term blindness may result, often requiring an ophthalmologic consultation to avoid secondary complications. In rare cases, shingles can even cause brain damage.
Is shingles contagious?
Generally speaking, shingles is not very contagious but it can be passed from individual to individual like any other virus, but mostly to patients that have an immune compromised disease such as Leukemia, AIDS, etc. To err on the side of caution, limit your contact with others who have shingles for at least three days after starting a round of antivirals. Alert your provider if you have a shingles outbreak while pregnant, as it is possible to pass the virus to the fetus.
Can I get shingles again after I’ve had it?
Yes, it is possible to get shingles again, but it will rarely appear in the same area as before.
How old do I need to be to receive the shingles vaccine?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the vaccine for individuals 50 or older.