Are you experiencing intense nerve pain, an uncomfortable rash, or a tingling sensation on one side of your body? If so, you may be suffering from the virus herpes zoster, commonly referred to as shingles. While painful and sometimes debilitating symptoms associated with this condition can potentially severely impact your quality of life, understanding the signs and getting treatment promptly could lead to quicker recovery. 

Here, we will discuss what causes shingles, its common associated symptoms and how best to treat them.

What Is Shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection that typically affects older adults or individuals with a weakened immune system. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and can lead to a rash or blisters on one side of the body. While symptoms may vary from person to person, common signs of shingles include an itchy or burning sensation, followed by a rash or blisters that can last up to two weeks. Additionally, those affected may experience fatigue, fever and headaches. 

If you suspect you may have shingles, seeking medical attention promptly to mitigate the associated pain and prevent potential complications is vital.

What Are the Causes of Shingles?

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Yet, what triggers the virus to reactivate in the first place? Several factors are thought to contribute to the development of shingles, including a weakened immune system, ageing, stress and specific medical treatments.

The Common Signs and Symptoms of Shingles

What are the symptoms of shingles? The illness is typically characterised by a burning, itchy, or tingling sensation along with clusters of red bumps and blisters. Another common sign of shingles is flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, upset stomach and fatigue. The most apparent symptom of shingles is an intensely painful rash on one side of the face or body in the area supplied by a particular nerve.

A shingles rash can sometimes be confused with other conditions, including eczema, contact dermatitis and even a reaction to poison ivy. Whatever the case, it’s essential to seek medical attention if you have any suspicious skin symptoms so that proper diagnosis and treatment can be provided. 

As mentioned above, the risk factors for shingles include older age, a weakened immune system and certain medications that can suppress the immune system. In the days before the rash, an individual may experience itching, stinging, or burning sensation on the affected spot. This is followed by the visible rash that starts as red patches and then evolves into clear fluid-filled blisters.

Treatment for Shingles

Shingles can be truly debilitating. Although there is no cure for shingles, various treatments are available to help alleviate symptoms and speed up the healing process. A prescription for antiviral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir is often the initial treatment for shingles. Antiviral drugs are most effective when taken shortly after the onset of symptoms. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe analgesics to reduce pain and itching associated with shingles.

Prescription antiviral medications can help reduce the outbreak’s length and severity, while over-the-counter creams and ointments can help soothe the skin and ease discomfort. Painkillers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can also be helpful for managing the pain associated with shingles. In severe cases, a doctor may recommend a nerve block or corticosteroid injections to help alleviate pain and inflammation. 

With the right combination of treatments, those suffering from shingles can find much-needed relief and return to feeling like themselves again. The complications of shingles can be severe and long-lasting in some cases, so it is vital to seek medical advice as soon as possible if you exhibit shingles symptoms. If you can’t get an appointment with your regular doctor in person, you can access online GP appointments for shingles treatment instead from the comfort of your own home at a time that is convenient for you.

When Should I Speak with a Doctor?

If you suspect you may have shingles, speak to your general practitioner about your symptoms! They will be able to look at your medical records and use their knowledge t to determine the cause of your symptoms.

If you think you may be suffering from shingles, please don’t hesitate to contact your doctor immediately as treatment options are available for shingles.

This article is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Speak to a doctor if you have any questions about a medical condition without any delay.