Understanding Shingles

One in five people will get shingles during their lifetime. Shingles is an infection caused by a virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. For those that suffer from a shingles outbreak, they are well aware of its painful and often unbearable symptoms. This is why many older adults choose to get a shingles vaccine that is readily available in most pharmacies and medical clinics.

Who Gets it?

Anyone who has had chickenpox (even as a child) is vulnerable to getting shingles. The virus remains dormant in your body, housing itself at the nerve roots of your spinal cord. Most people never experience the virus going active again in their lifetime. However, for those that do, the virus presents itself as a painful blistering rash called shingles. There doesn’t have to be a specific trigger for shingles, however, it often develops after episodes of stress or illness. Adults over 50 years of age are at increased risk.

What are the symptoms?

Shingles affects the skin and originates in the corresponding nerve roots of the spine. It presents itself on a band of skin on just half of the body. Typically, the chest and stomach are affected. At first, you may notice an area of your skin that feels like a dull or sharp ache, burning or stabbing pain. Within a few days, a painful red rash with blisters will appear. These blisters will scab over and fade over a period of about three weeks.

Is there treatment?

The key to treating shingles and lessening your symptoms is to see your physician as soon as symptoms appear. At this time, you may be able to take an anti-viral medicine to help you recover more quickly. With or without treatment, most people recover from shingles completely. However, there is a 2 to 4 week period that can be quite uncomfortable. Talk to a dermatologist for special remedies to alleviate your skin rash symptoms as the virus takes its course.

Olansky Dermatology Associates offers a full menu of treatments for all types of skin rashes, including shingles. If you suspect that you may have this type of blistering rash on your body, please make an appointment sooner rather than later for the best chance at effective treatment.

Posted on behalf of Olansky Dermatology & Aesthetics