The symptoms happen in stages and often start with light sensitivity, headache, and flu symptoms without fever. Later, a rash with itchy, tingly or painful blisters filled with fluid may appear, break open, crust over, or heal in two to six weeks.
The virus that causes chickenpox in children lies asleep in nerve tissue and resurfaces years later as shingles. Aging immune systems (50+), weakening diseases (HIV), cancer radiation or chemotherapy, or certain medications (Prednisone) can increase the chance of shingles. There is an adult vaccine that lowers the chance of shingles and can prevent long-term pain should a patient contract the disease.
There is no cure for shingles, but the condition can be treated with antiviral and pain medicine(s), and by keeping skin sores clean.
Managing stress with meditation, yoga, and music can help reduce the perception of pain from shingles.
Patients can try over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen (Tylenol) or anti- inflammatory (ibuprofen or naproxen) to reduce mild to moderate pain. Topical creams that contain mint (menthol), pepper (capsaicin), or lidocaine may numb pain by interfering with pain signals to the brain. If the pain doesn’t improve, physicians can treat the nerve pain with opioids (Codeine) or anticonvulsants (Gabapentin), and antidepressants (amitriptyline) can help psychological conditions that make the perception of pain worse.
Physicians may recommend physical, massage, or talk therapy to help reduce and cope with shingles pain.
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