Shingles is a painful rash that begins as red patches, that soon develop into blisters. The blisters may remain small, or can become quite large. They heal in 2-4 weeks. In some cases, they may leave scars, which may require additional treatment.
Many patients mistakenly believe that “nervousness” causes shingles. However, it does not. Shingles is a viral infection of a nerve root, and has nothing to do with being “nervous”. Shingles (herpes zoster) is a nerve infection caused by the chicken pox virus. Shingles results from the reactivation of the chicken pox virus that has remained in your body since you had chicken pox, perhaps many years ago. The virus activation is limited to a nerve root. That accounts for the pattern of the rash, which typically stops at the body’s midline. The nerve involvement explains the stinging, burning, or pain that is common with shingles. Some patients have discomfort before the rash appears.
Most cases of shingles are treated with an antiviral medication. We will also try to make you as comfortable as possible while healing.
If you have much pain, you can be given a prescription painkiller to take until the pain subsides. The pain is caused by neuritis – inflammation of a nerve. Cortisone shortens this neuritis and is often prescribed. The blistering rash usually clears up in a few weeks. The discomfort may persist longer.
Until your rash has healed, you should keep away from people who have never had chicken pox. Small children or infants can catch chicken pox from someone with shingles. Those whose resistance is lowered by illness or certain medication can also catch shingles. Contact with healthy adults appears safe.
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