Don't Be Rash When It Comes to Shingles
Shingles is a common infection of the nerves caused by a virus, prompting a painful rash or small blisters on the skin. This condition is common in people with weakened immune systems and those over the age of 50.
What is shingles?
Shingles occurs when the chickenpox virus—which can lie dormant in certain nerves for many years after a person has chickenpox—becomes reactivated. However, unlike chickenpox, shingles doesn’t spread all over your body. These rashes can appear anywhere but typically occur on only one side of the face or body.
Symptoms that may indicate you have shingles include:
Skin sensitivity, such as tingling, itching, or pain
A small rash with red spots that turn into blisters or scabs
Early symptoms of shingles include:
Each person may experience symptoms differently. Be sure to talk to your doctor for a diagnosis.
How is shingles diagnosed?
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will perform a complete physical exam and ask about your medical history. He or she will be able to identify whether the rash is shingles.
How is shingles treated?
Shingles affects people in different ways. Your physician will determine the correct treatment for you. Since there isn’t a cure for this virus, it must run its course, but treatment can be applied to ease the pain. Your doctor can prescribe an antiviral medication, which is only effective if taken within 24-72 hours of the first appearance of a rash.
How can I prevent shingles?
Your risk of the infection increases with age. Doctors recommend everyone 60 and older receive the shingles vaccine every five years. Keep in mind, the vaccine only decreases your risk rather than eliminating it. Even so, studies have shown that vaccinations can reduce the risk of serious complications and pain from shingles.
Need to get vaccinated? Make an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. If you experience serious symptoms of shingles, such as severe pain or a rash near the eyes, or your immune system has a difficult time overcoming the virus, go to your preferred emergency room.