Do I Have Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles, because the virus never leaves the body. While many people never have problems, others develop shingles when the virus becomes active again later in life.

What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?

The risk of getting shingles rises as you age, making it most common in people over age 50. Many people experience pain, itching or tingling on their skin several days before a painful rash appears. Other symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Skin that is sensitive to the touch
  • Upset stomach

Many people describe the discomfort as a shooting or burning pain, while others experience numbness and tingling. Some experience all the symptoms.

What Does a Shingles Rash Look Like?

At the onset, a shingles rash usually appears as a single red band on one side of the body or the face. Unfortunately, the rash gets worse before it gets better. Within a few days, the red area turns into fluid-filled blisters, which will scab over about a week later. The scabs usually clear up within a couple of weeks.

How Is Shingles Treated?

No cure exists for shingles, but antiviral medications can shorten the duration and severity of shingles attacks. Medicine is most effective if taken within three days of the appearance of the rash. If you think you have shingles, contact your healthcare provider or visit River’s Edge Express Clinic as soon as possible.

There are also things you can do at home to help you feel better:

  • Apply a cool, damp washcloth to your blisters to ease pain and itching.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Try an oatmeal bath or calamine lotion to soothe itching.

While shingles itself is not contagious, the virus can be passed on to anyone who has not had chickenpox.

The shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is recommended for all adults ages 50 and older.

What Are the Complications of Shingles?

A condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the most common complication of shingles. PHN causes long-term nerve pain in the area affected by the rash and can be quite severe, especially in elderly people. While the condition usually goes away in a few weeks or months, it can sometimes last for years and interfere with daily life. The older you are, the more likely you are to experience PHN. Antiviral medication may help to prevent PHN if taken at the onset of shingles symptoms.

Other complications from shingles are also possible. If the rash appears on your face, damage to the eye can occur and can lead to blindness in rare instances. Pneumonia, hearing loss and brain inflammation are other rare complications from shingles.

If you have early signs of a shingles attack, don’t wait to visit a healthcare provider. The nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants at River’s Edge Express Clinic can diagnose shingles and are happy to answer your questions. Conveniently located inside the Hilltop Hy-Vee in Mankato, the clinic is open Monday–Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  No appointment is necessary.

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