Utah Shingles Pain & Treatment
Herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles, is a rash resulting from the varicella-zoster virus that is also responsible for chicken pox. When a child has chicken pox, the virus will stay dormant in their system. Sometimes, however, it resurfaces decades later as a shingles outbreak. Why some people develop shingles and others don't is not currently medically understood. Typically, if the virus does resurface as shingles, there is only one attack. It tends to take place in patients over 60 who have an otherwise healthy immune system. If a child is exposed to an adult suffering from shingles, the child will likely catch chicken pox. However, if a healthy adult is exposed the virus is not infectious.
Symptoms of Shingles
Shingles usually begins with a mild tingling or burning in the affected area. The affected area will likely begin to show small blisters which will burst, creating small ulcers. Usually the ulcers will heal within a couple of weeks. The areas most often affected by shingles include the spine, stomach and chest, but can also include the face and mouth. Other symptoms include chills, abdominal pain, fever, headaches, facial distortion due to muscular cramping, joint pain, vision issues and swollen glands.
Utah Shingles Treatment
Before a doctor diagnoses a patient with shingles, he will perform a physical examination focusing on the condition of the skin and ask you several questions about your medical history. Tests are usually not needed, but if they are, the physician will likely take a skin sample to be tested for herpes zoster. If the doctor determines that you are, in fact, suffering from shingles, he will likely prescribe an antiviral medication, often Acyclovir, Famciclovir, or Valacyclovir. These medications are most effective when taken within 24 hours of the initial feeling of pain or burning and, if possible, before blisters start to appear.
Drugs can be administered intravenously if needed, but are usually dispensed in pill form and in much larger doses than would be given to fight herpes simplex or genital herpes. Powerful anti-inflammatory medications, usually a corticosteroid such as Prednisone, can also be helpful in reducing swelling and pain. Other potentially helpful medications include: Antihistamines (to reduce itching, taken orally or as a lotion), pain medications (over-the-counter or opioid), and Zostrix, which is a cream containing capsaicin that can reduce the risk of postherpetic neuralgia.
There are also several non-pharmaceutical therapies that can be helpful with the pain and discomfort associated with shingles. Some examples include a wet compress to reduce pain and soothing baths (oatmeal bath or starch bath) and lotions (calamine lotion) in order to relieve itching and discomfort. Resting in bed until the fever has been reduced is also highly recommended.
The affected skin should always be kept clean and only new or freshly washed dressings should be used when treating a shingles rash. If a patient has oozing lesions, they should be kept isolated from other people (especially pregnant women) in order to prevent the spreading of the herpes zoster virus.
How long do Shingles Last?
The herpes zoster virus tends to clear up in 2-3 weeks and almost never affects the same person again. If the virus affects the motor nerves, a patient might have temporary or permanent weakness or paralysis. When shingles pain lasts for several months to years, it is a condition called postherpectic neuralgia. It is a result of the nerves being damaged during a shingles outbreak, and usually occurs in patients over 60 years old. Some of the other complications that may result from herpes zoster include: A second attack of shingles, blindness if the shingles affects the eye, bacterial skin infection, deafness, infection in persons with weakened immune systems, and Ramsay Hunt syndrome if the shingles occurs in the face.
Getting treatment for shingles
If you think that you might be suffering from the early stages of shingles, see your physician as soon as possible to prevent symptoms from worsening. If you have never had chicken pox or shingles, avoid contact with anyone suffering from the herpes zoster virus. The best way to deal with herpes zoster is to prevent it in the first place. A vaccine is now available that is different than the chicken pox vaccine, and should be administered as a course of routine medical care, especially in those older than 60 years.
For more information on how Omega Interventional Pain can help treat your shingles pain, please contact us at 801-261-4988.