How to Prevent and Treat Shingles

Remember how common chickenpox was only a few decades ago? As recently as the 1990s, an average of 4 million people had the notoriously itchy, bumpy rash. Do you hear much about it now? No. Why? We can thank the varicella vaccine. Since the late 1990s, the varicella vaccine has been responsible for preventing approximately 3.5 million cases of varicella, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths in the United States each year, according to the CDC.

For those who missed the boat on that shot as a child and have endured chickenpox, there is a chance you may get shingles later in life. About 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles during their lifetime. Not great odds.

WHAT ARE SHINGLES?

Chickenpox is an infection caused by the Varicella-Zoster virus. Unfortunately, this virus stays in the body long after the chickenpox rash clears up. If it reactivates, what you’ll get is a painful, blistering rash on your midsection or torso known as shingles. This itching, painful rash can last months or even years. Rashes, however, are not the only symptom. Some experience a burning or stabbing sensation even without the visible rash.

Perhaps the only good news is there is a vaccine for shingles too. As your chances of getting shingles increases with age, it’s highly recommended you get the vaccine when you turn 50.

It’s important to note that even after getting the shingles vaccine, those who have had chickenpox can still get shingles, but it greatly reduces your risk of developing serious complications. These include life-disrupting nerve pain caused by post-herpetic neuralgia, eye problems, or bacterial infections.

HOW A DERMATOLOGIST CAN HELP WITH SHINGLES

One of The Derm Group’s board-certified dermatologists can provide guidance and treatment to provide relief for those suffering from shingles. These treatments may include:

  • Antiviral medicines: These medicines, which include acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, are most effective if started as soon as possible after the first sign of a rash. They aim to shorten the length and severity of the illness.
  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine may help to relieve some discomfort.
  • Nerve blocks: These injections contain a numbing anesthetic for intense pain.

You may also be prescribed anti-depressants, anesthetic creams and patches, colloidal oatmeal baths, or anti-seizure medicines. At The Derm Group, dermatologists in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania will work with you to help you feel as comfortable as possible to help you get back to your daily routine when you request your appointment online or call us at (973) 571-2121.

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