What to do if you think you have shingles. . .

If you’ve had chicken pox, the herpesvirus is hibernating in your body.  It can reactivate anytime and cause shingles.   Shingles is a painful , itchy, burning, bugs-under-your-skin-feeling rash on one side of the body.  See your doctor for confirmation.

The goals of antiviral therapy are not to get rid of the virus (as this is impossible) but instead to promote faster healing of skin lesions, lessen the severity and duration of pain, and to decrease the incidence or severity of postherpetic neuralgia (which means post-herpes-nerve-pain at the same site of the rash).

Antiviral medication is recommended for patients >50 years of age with uncomplicated shingles.  The patient needs to see the doctor within 72 hours of clinical symptoms or medication may not help decrease the pain or shorten the course.   Two antiviral choices are Valacyclovir (1000 mg three times daily for seven days)or acyclovir (800 mg five times daily for seven days).  Both are effective, acyclovir is much less expensive but less conveniently dosed.

The benefit of antiviral therapy in younger patients (under 50) is not as clear, as younger patients are less likely to have post herpetic neuralgia.   But, because antivirals are relatively safe, they CAN be given if the patients are diagnosed within 72 hours of clinical symptoms.

In short. . .

  • Anyone who has had the chicken pox can get shingles.  Be aware of feelings of skin tingling, burning and then a rash developing.  See your doctor.
  • Shingles nerve pain hurts.  Your doctor can prescribe pain medication.
  • Early antiviral treatment for shingles reduces the duration and incidence of postherpetic neuralgia.
  • Steroid therapy once was thought to decrease complications from shingles, but this has not been shown to help and may, instead, decrease the immune system/infection fighting ability of the system and put the patient more at risk.
  •  If older than 60, get herpes shingles vaccine.

Hope this helps!

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About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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