Shingles, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is among the most painful and irritating skin conditions diagnosed in older adults. If you had chickenpox as a child or come into contact with someone with shingles, you have the potential to develop the disease. The virus lies dormant in your system and may recur as a painful rash later in life. Scientists know very little about what causes the rash to occur or how some individuals develop it, and others do not.
The worst symptom of shingles is pain. It can be a mild burning and itching sensation for some, but for others, it can cause constant, intense pain in large areas of the body. If you are experiencing shingles pain, you have several immediate treatment options.
Shingles Pain And Other Symptoms
Shingles are not life-threatening, but the pain can cause worry for many patients. It will most likely present right before developing a large rash all over large areas of the torso. However, shingles pain can occur even if a rash never occurs. Some patients develop postherpetic neuralgia, which causes shingles pain even after the blisters have healed. Other signs and symptoms of shingles include:
- Pain or burning in the skin
- Tingling or numbness in large areas of the skin
- Sensitivity to light or touch
- A red rash or blisters
Vaccines and Treatment
A shingles vaccine is available and recommended for individuals over 50. It is recommended whether or not you’ve had chickenpox or shingles before because the disease can occur more than once and can be spread on contact. While the vaccines cannot treat shingles, they can reduce the likelihood of infection and protect others around you from developing the disease.
Shingles pain is most often treated with:
- OTC medications and topical treatments
- Prescription painkillers
- Nerve-blocking injections
Other treatment options are available through your physician’s office, so it is best to set up an appointment as soon as you start experiencing symptoms. The sooner you treat shingles, the less likely you will develop severe symptoms.
Shingles can result in more severe side effects if not treated properly. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your physician immediately to prevent permanent damage:
- Pain or a shingles rash near the eye (shingles can cause permanent eye damage)
- If you’re 60 or older, as older age can increase your likelihood of complications
- You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system (due to cancer, immune disorders, medications, or other factors)
- The rash is widespread and very painful