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Written by Dr. Ringpfeil

Shingles - Herpes Zoster

Shingles, is a viral disease causing a blistering skin rash that appears as stripes. Usually the rash only occurs on one side of the body and is preceded by general itching and headache. The virus that causes shingles, called herpes zoster, also causes the short duration rash, chickenpox. The chickenpox virus never leaves the body once an individual has the disease but instead remains dormant in the spinal nerves. Unexpectedly, in old age the herpes zoster virus flares-up and manifests as shingles. Usually shingles occurs in patients fighting an infection that has weakened the immune system. Patients with HIV or receiving anti-cancer therapy are at an especially high risk of developing the disease. Approximately five out of every thousand adults over the age of 65 contract shingles. The main clinical sign is the rash, but most people report intense pain that lasts for four weeks as a result of nerve irritation from the virus. Since the nerves are mainly affect by the virus, some people even report eye pain and temporary losses of vision as a result of a rash on the face. Most symptoms depend upon the location of the body presenting the rash.

Shingles Diagnosis

Since the rash is distinct a doctor can easily diagnose shingles with a physical examination. Often, a patient history is necessary to confirm that the individual had chickenpox. If the rash is not present or the rash is not the distinct line form on one side of the body, biochemistry tests can reveal the virus circulating in the body.

Shingles Treatment

Similar to chicken pox, the virus must run its course in the body before disappearing. Most treatment options focus on lessoning the pain, fever, and itching that accompanies shingles. Antivirals commonly reduce the spread of the virus in the body and decrease the duration of the rash but do not treat the residual nerve pain. Lotion helps relieve the itching while pain medications such as morphine or steroids can lesson the pain and help stop the inflammation. If the itching and pain does is not reduced with lotions, local anesthetic such as lidocaine can often reduce the irritation from the rash.

Shingles Management

After taking medication, the patients should stay out of direct sunlight which can irritate the rash. Proper rest is essential since stress is one of the main factors promoting further inflammation and outbreaks. The shingles virus is contagious to people who have never had chicken pox. Therefore, young children and adults who never had the virus should stay away from the individual with shingles.

Shingles Prevention

A new vaccine called Zostavax was recently developed and has been proven to reduce the occurrence of herpes in half of the people who are infected. Since 2007, adults over the age of 60 who have had chickenpox as a child are recommended to take the vaccine. Some research has also shown that adults who have had chickenpox develop some immunity to shingles by being around children who have chickenpox. Most importantly, a healthy immune system greatly decreases the chances of developing shingles and low stress environments minimize the risk of outbreaks.

Shingles - Resources


Chicken Pox / Shingles (Varicella - zoster)
VZV Research Foundation
36 East 72nd St
New York, NY 10021
Tel: 212-472-3181

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/detail_shingles.htm

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Last updated: 9/15/2021 5:01 PM

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What WE DID WELL

(Answers:674)

Everyone was very nice!

#12021-02-15

The doctor was a good listener and gave clear answers

#22020-10-30

All was extraordinary, compared to most doctor's offices. However, the doctor's explanation of the condition was particularly outstanding.

#32011-09-28 14:40:16

Information provided by doctor.

#42021-06-18

knowledge and friendly

#52021-01-04

Appt hours are great for early morning. Great staff!

#62021-01-20

The doctor made me feel very comfortable when I was asking questions.

#72021-07-16

Very good service

#82020-10-06

I liked the staff and the doc!

#92021-03-25

The staff was very friendly, helpful and professional. The doctor herself is a pro, I was very impressed and will definitely recommend her to others, especially of my race. Its very hard to find a good dermatologist and I believe she is wonderful and really knows what she's doing. I am glad that I came here, thank you.

#102011-11-10 12:40:32

What can we do better?

(answers:373)

you are the best!

#12011-08-10 10:32:44

Less wait time for an appointment.

#22010-11-17 15:23:04

No complaints - overall best experience at any dermatologist.

#32011-09-27 12:59:17

keep doing what u doing keep up the good work!!!!

#42021-04-12

Keep doing what you're doing.

#52021-09-17

uhmm.. you're office was too nice. It made me jealous.

#62021-02-12

Can not be better!

#72011-04-05 09:29:32

Be on time for our appointments

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There is a problem with availability of parking during busy week days.

#92021-07-08

My experience in the office today was absolutely excellent

#102020-12-08
Customer Rating : 4.5

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