Many people know next to nothing about shingles beyond the type that cover your roof. But if you had chicken pox when you were a kid, you need to be aware of this viral infection that leads to a painful rash. At Deschutes, we offer shingles vaccinations and treatment.
What are shingles?
If you’re over 50, odds are you probably had chicken pox when you were a kid. There was no vaccine at the time, and it was very contagious. If you had chicken pox, you could develop shingles. The virus behind chicken pox, the varicella-zoster virus, is the culprit behind shingles. The virus resides in nerve tissue near the person’s brain and spinal cord but is dormant after the chicken pox outbreak. Then, particularly after the age of 50, it can rear its ugly head as shingles. Shingles will show itself as a painful rash on the skin, usually as a single strip of rash on the face or the body.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
The extreme pain that can be a part of shingles isn’t initially present. First, the person may begin to get headaches and become somewhat sensitive to light. Flu-like symptoms, without fever, come next.
You’ll wish you had those symptoms when the next phase comes on. The next stage will result in shooting or burning pain on one side of the body or face. This pain is also usually accompanied by itching and tingling sensations. The pain varies from person to person, but it can become severe. After two weeks, rashes may appear on the face or body. It most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of the torso. These rashes will usually heal in two to four weeks, but the pain can linger for weeks, months, even a couple of years.
Stress, illness, and certain medications that compromise the immune system can trigger a shingles outbreak. Once a person has a shingles outbreak, it usually won’t happen again.
How we treat shingles
At Deschutes, Dr. Carter treats shingles in a variety of ways. The best option, for those over 50, is to have the shingles vaccine. This vaccine lowers your chances of getting shingles and usually prevents chronic pain from developing after your other symptoms have subsided.
Once the virus has blossomed into full-blown shingles, Dr. Carter uses antiviral medicines and pain relievers to alleviate the pain. She’ll usually prescribe antiviral medication as soon as a person experiences early symptoms and before rashes develop. Topical creams will be used to decrease skin inflammation.