Search:
 
 
   
Expand Window Full Screen
Shingles

On this Page

What is Shingles?

Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox and represents a reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus. The disease generally affects the elderly, although it occasionally occurs in younger and/or immunodeficient individuals. The first sign is usually a tingling feeling, itchiness, or stabbing pain on the skin. After a few days, a rash appears as a band or patch of raised dots on the side of the trunk or face. The rash develops into small, fluid-filled blisters which begin to dry out and crust over within several days. When the rash is at its peak, symptoms can range from mild itching to extreme and intense pain. Contact with a person with shingles may cause chickenpox (but not shingles) in someone who has never had chickenpox before.

Return to top Return to top

Is there any treatment?

Treatment for shingles includes antiviral drugs, steroids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical agents. The severity and duration of an attack of shingles can be significantly reduced by immediate treatment with the antiviral drugs acyclovir, valacyclovir or famcyclovir. These drugs may also help stave off the painful aftereffects of shingles known as postherpetic neuralgia.

Return to top Return to top

What is the prognosis?

Although shingles can be very painful and itchy, it is not generally dangerous to healthy individuals and it usually resolves without complications. The rash and pain usually go away within 3 to 5 weeks. Sometimes serious effects including partial facial paralysis (usually temporary), ear damage, or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) may occur. Persons with shingles on the upper half of the face should seek medical attention immediately as the virus may cause serious damage to the eyes. Most people who have shingles have only one bout with the disease in their lifetime. However, individuals with impaired immune systems, i.e., people with AIDS or cancer, may suffer repeated episodes.

Return to top Return to top

 

Organizations

American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)

National Chronic Pain Outreach Association (NCPOA)

VZV Research Foundation

National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain

Return to top Return to top

Shingles