A reactivation of the chickenpox virus in the body, causing a painful rash. Anyone who’s had chickenpox may develop shingles. It isn’t known what reactivates the virus. Shingles cause a painful rash that may appear as a stripe of blisters on the trunk of the body. Pain can persist even after the rash is gone (this is called postherpetic neuralgia). Treatments include pain relief and antiviral medications such as acyclovir or valacyclovir. A chickenpox vaccine in childhood or a shingles vaccine as an adult can minimize the risk of developing shingles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Early symptoms of shingles may include fever and general weakness. You may also feel areas of pain, burning, or a tingling sensation. A few days later, the first signs of a rash appear. You may notice pink or red blotchy patches on one side of your body.
Because shingles often go away on their own, many people can manage the pain with over-the-counter pain medications. However, it is important to see a doctor within three days so you and your doctor can decide on a treatment plan, including whether you will need antiviral medications.
There are a variety of topical treatments, including topical acyclovir 5% cream, lidocaine, and capsaicin. The latter, applied at least 5 times a day, depletes neurotransmitters at involved nerve endings. Topical lidocaine can also be used to treat patients with PHN.