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Shingles (sometimes referred to as “herpes zoster”) is a viral infection caused by the chickenpox virus. Symptoms include pain and a rash on one side of the body. It most commonly affects older adults and people with weakened immune systems. Dr. Neil Gokal shares important information on what look for.
1 in 3 people in the US will develop the shingles virus thru out their lifetime. And the risk does increase as we age, especially after age 50.
The virus it’s self is contagious and is commonly transmitted thru the fluid in the blisters from the rash that presents. People who never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can also develop this virus from being exposed to people with shingles.
The singles rash usually develops on one side of the body however it can cross to both sides. Typically, before the onset of the rash there is pain or sensitivity over the area on the skin. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. The rash consists of blisters that usually scab over in 7 to 10 days and the rash usually clears up in 2 to 4 weeks.
Before it develops people can have pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash is going to develop and this typically occurs 1 to 5 days ahead of time. Shingles is one of those times where waiting is actually worse, if you think you may have the rash or the infection it is best to cover the area and contact your doctor’s office. Prior to seeing your doctor, it is important to make sure you are washing your hands and avoid contact with other people in the household.
The only way to reduce the risk is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that people aged 60 years and older get one dose of shingles vaccine which is available in most pharmacy’s and doctors’ offices. Over the counter pain medication may help relieve the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion and oatmeal baths may also help relieve some of the itching. Talk to your health care professional if you have questions about shingles, the vaccination or treatment of the infection.