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Shingles

Intro

Call your doctor if you have pain or rash in a band on one side of your body. If you think you have shingles, you should be seen as soon as possible. Antiviral medication is effective only if given early.

  • If the rash   with blisters is on your nose or near your eyes, you should be seen right away because the virus may spread to the eye and cause eye damage or vision loss.
  • You should also be seen as soon as possible if you have a medical illness that decreases your ability to fight off infection. You may be able to avoid complications.

Go to a hospital's emergency department if these conditions develop:

  • If you have shingles and a high fever   or feel sick
  • If the blisters are spreading to other areas of your body
Self-Care at Home

If you think you have shingles, you should see your doctor as soon as possible, because antiviral medication is effective only if given early.

  • Do not scratch. This may increase the risk of secondary bacterial infection and scarring. Antihistamines can relieve the itching.
  • Pain medication is often necessary.
  • Apply cool tap-water compresses to weeping blisters for 20 minutes several times a day to soothe and help dry the blisters. It also aids in removing the scabs and decreases the potential for bacterial infection. Tap-water compresses must be stopped once the blisters have dried, so the surrounding skin does not become too dry and itchy.
  • Keep the area clean with mild soap and water. Application of petroleum jelly can aid in healing. Wear loose clothing to avoid extra pain from clothing rubbing against the rash. Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with others who have not had chickenpox  , are ill, or who have a weakened immune system  .

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Follow-up

After you leave the doctor's office, make sure you take all the medicine you have been prescribed and follow the directions given. If you notice new symptoms or if you cannot control the pain or itching, talk with your doctor.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent shingles.

  • You cannot get shingles from someone else with shingles. However, if you have not had chickenpox, you can get chickenpox from close contact with open blisters of someone with shingles. Covering the rash with a dressing or clothing helps decrease the risk of spreading the infection to others.
  • The VZV vaccine, otherwise known as the chickenpox vaccine, may decrease the incidence of shingles by enhancing the immune system's ability to fight off VZV or keep this virus inactive. Boosters of this vaccine are now being investigated and may help prevent shingles in the future.
Outlook

Most cases of shingles go away by themselves with or without treatment. The rash and pain should be gone in 2-3 weeks. However, shingles may last longer and be more likely to recur if you are older, especially older than 50 years, or have a serious medical problem.

  • Pain may last after the rash is gone. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. This type of pain is more common in older people, and the pain may be severe.
  • Other possible complications include a bacterial skin infection, spread of infection to internal organs of the body, or eye damage. Scarring is common.

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