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What is Shingles and how do I treat it?

Shingles, a viral infection, causes pain and may be accompanied by a rash. Here is some information about the condition and the treatment:

All about shingles

What is shingles? Shingles (herpes zoster) is a viral infection. It affects nerve roots causing pain, and is often accompanied by a rash that appears on the left or right side of the body. The condition impacts upon older people and people with weakened immune systems. Shingles causes The chickenpox virus causes shingles. It lies dormant in nerve roots and activates in times of stress or immune system weakness (due to age, stress or disease). Shingles symptoms Shingles starts with a headache or sensitivity to light accompanied by flu symptoms and weakness. Itching and pain start on an area where a rash may appear after some days. The rash develops into fluid-filled blister clusters, which dry and peel off in two to four weeks. These can cause scars.

How is shingles treated?

If you suspect you have shingles, contact your doctor immediately. Untreated shingles can lead to postherpetic neuralgia, which can cause serious problems. Treatment must start within three days of rash appearance/sighting. There is no cure for shingles but its length and complications can be controlled. Here is how this herpes rash is treated: Regular treatment 1. You start off on antivirals like acyclovir and famciclovir to reduce shingles duration and pain. 2. OTC drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen may be prescribed to help reduce skin pain during an attack. 3. Topical antibiotics are applied on the skin to stop blister infection. 4. Sometimes, corticosteroids are prescribed to reduce pain for people below 50 years. If pain persists, the doctor may recommend acupuncture or biofeedback or electrical nerve simulation or counseling sessions in addition to medicines. Postherpetic neuralgia treatment If pain continues after the rash heals, it is a sign of post-herpetic neuralgia. This can cause pain for years, and needs a combination of the following: 1. Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline. 2. Topical anaesthetics like lidocaine patches. 3. Anticonvulsants like gabapentin. 4. Opiods like codeine. When Post-therpetic neuralgia continues for more than a year, the patient may have to undergo surgery wherein the painful nerves are cut to block pain signals. Get a second opinion before agreeing for surgery. Watch out for: Shingles on the face (herpes zoster opthalmicus) can cause a rash around one eye and that can threaten eyesight. Ophthalmologists treat this condition by antiviral medicine and with cold compresses. Disseminated zoster can cause a rash over a large area of your body that can impact the vital organs. Treatment includes antivirals and antibiotics. Sometimes shingles can impact brain nerves causing serious complications. Treatment varies on a case-to-case basis.

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