Shingles is a painful viral infection, as anyone who has ever had it will quickly attest. If you think you may have shingles, or if you’re having skin symptoms, you should always seek out the counsel of a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment. Even so, it’s important to understand shingles so that you’ll be able to recognize it if it ever happens to you.
Shingles are actually caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox: the varicella-zoster virus. If you had chickenpox as a child, then you are at risk for developing shingles later in life. The virus never completely clears your system, and shingles are what happens when the latent virus is suddenly reactivated. This typically occurs in approximately 20 percent of people who carry the virus.
Shingles are most common in people over the age of 60, but younger people can experience it. Pain or incredibly sensitive skin that is localized to one side of the body in a broad area is typically the first symptom. This can manifest in a variety of ways, from intense itching to deep shooting pain. There may also be headaches or fever and chills. About three days later, a raised rash appears, then pustules or blisters form in the area of pain.
Your dermatologist can give you an anti-viral medication to lessen the symptoms of shingles that are caught early. Beyond that, it simply has to run its course. You can try taking antihistamines with your dermatologist’s approval. Try not to scratch, keep the area clean, and apply cool compresses until the blisters dry up to help with the pain and swelling. Be sure to properly dispose of any dressings or cloths as the virus is highly contagious during the weeping stage.
If you think you have shingles or any other skin problem, contact us at Swinyer – Woseth Dermatology. We offer medical services, cosmetic services, and skincare products in the Salt Lake City area. Visit our website to learn more about our practice, or call 801-266-8841 to schedule an appointment.