Painful Rash? It Could be Shingles
If you contracted chickenpox when you were younger, you could be at risk for shingles, a painful rash that most often develops across the torso. Learn more about shingles before seeking treatment for this viral skin infection.
Symptoms of Shingles
The initial signs of shingles typically include:
- Pain, burning, itching, or tingling skin. For some people, the discomfort can be intense.
- Extreme skin sensitivity.
- A red rash that develops a few days after the pain begins, usually on the torso. Shingles can also develop on other parts of the body, including the face.
- Fluid-filled blisters, which may break open, ooze, and crust over.
- Muscle aches, weakness, chills, and nausea.
For most people, a shingles infection clears up on its own after two to four weeks. Consider seeing a doctor if:
- The pain and rash occur near your eyes.
- You’re over age 60, increasing the risk of complications.
- You or someone in your household has a weakened immune system.
- The rash is widespread and very painful.
Causes & Risk Factors for Shingles
Shingles and chickenpox come from the same source—the varicella-zoster virus. The reason why this virus reactivates and causes shingles is unclear, though a low immunity to infections is one potential trigger.
The risk factors for shingles include:
- Age: Being 50 and older makes you more susceptible to shingles. The risk of postherpetic neuralgia, or continued pain long after the rash clears up, increases the older you are. Still, people of any age can develop shingles, including children.
- Cancer or other diseases: HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, and cancer all increase your risk of shingles because they impair your immune function.
- Certain medications: Receiving cancer treatment, taking immune-suppressing drugs after an organ transplant, or using steroids like prednisone long-term may increase the risk of shingles.
The good news is you can be vaccinated against shingles. A vaccine is available at any age for people who have never had chickenpox. A separate shingles vaccine is designed for adults age 50 and over who have had chickenpox.
Ask your doctor about prescription antiviral drugs designed to speed up the healing process. If you are in severe pain, you can also seek a prescription cream, gel, spray, skin patch, or other topical treatment to help you cope. Home remedies can also relieve the discomfort of shingles. These include soaking in a cool bath or applying a wet washcloth to the rash.
Be aware that the varicella-zoster virus is contagious, capable of causing chickenpox or shingles in those you come in contact with. To prevent spreading the disease, stay home from work or school until your rash has healed. The virus is no longer contagious once the blisters stop oozing and scab over.
If you have a rash of any kind that doesn’t respond to at-home treatment, contact Swinyer-Woseth Dermatology at 801-682-4715 for treatment. We offer cosmetic services, medical services, and skincare products in Salt Lake City.
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