Shingles is a painful rash that is very common in older adults and is caused by the same virus causing chickenpox. It often causes a painful red blistering rash in a specific pattern anywhere on the body. Shingles is more common in older adults and those with weakened immune systems.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Anyone who has had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can develop shingles. This is because the virus that causes chickenpox lives in our bodies forever, even after the symptoms are gone. When our immune system is weakened, it reactivates and causes shingles. As we age age, our immunity to the virus and our immune system itself is weaker, and the virus can reactivate. While it is uncommon, children and younger adults can also get shingles. If this happens, the doctor should carefully look for any signs of a weakened immune system due to a separate condition or disease, such as HIV.
SHINGLES (HERPES ZOSTER) SYMPTOMS
Shingles usually starts with pain or burning in a specific region of skin on your body. Following the pain, several days later a rash begins to appear. It usually has small blisters and has a sharp line distinguishing the area of the rash from your normal skin. It only affects one side of your body (left or right) and only rarely both at the same time. If you have a rash on both sides, or without blisters, or without pain it is less likely to be shingles and may be another condition. The rash and pain usually go away in several weeks, but sometimes the pain can linger for months or even years.
Diagnosis and Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Treatment
The diagnosis of shingles is made based purely on appearance. Doctors can often recognize the disease based on the way it looks and your symptoms. If you have ever had shingles, you can often tell if you start to get symptoms again, as it is often very similar. Talk to a doctor immediately if you think you have shingles, as there is treatment available.
The treatment of shingles starts with early antiviral medication. The earlier you start medicine, the more effective it is. The antiviral medications including acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famcyclovir can all be used and are effective at reducing the length of symptoms and their severity. Additionally, certain pain medications can be used to help with the burning and nerve pain that occurs.
Importantly, if you have had shingles, or for nearly all adults over age 60, experts recommend having the shingles vaccine, which can prevent future attacks and reduce their severity.
How PlushCare Works
1. Video chat and send pictures to your PlushCare physician, and tell them how your symptoms started.
2. The doctor can send a prescription for acylovir or valacyclvoir to make shingles go away faster.
3. Pick up your prescription at your pharmacy and be feeling better fast.