Managing Pain When You Have Shingles

Thanks to vaccines, many kids will never have to suffer through the chickenpox. But if you had the chickenpox, you’re at risk of developing shingles. Though caused by the same virus, varicella-zoster virus, shingles is significantly more painful and uncomfortable than the chickenpox. 

Our board-certified dermatologists at Associated Skin Care Specialists, with offices located in Maple Grove, Fridley, Eden Prairie, and Coon Rapids, Minnesota, specializes in the treatment of shingles. We want you to know your treatment options for managing your shingles pain.

Shingles: lying in wait

Shingles is very common and impacts one million people every year in the United States. If you had the chickenpox, you’re at risk of getting shingles.

Though you may no longer have the itchy rash, the virus that causes the chickenpox remains in your body, settling in the nerve tissue surrounding your brain and spinal cord. The virus then lies dormant in the tissue for years.

When reactivated, the virus travels along your nerves to your skin, producing a painful strip of blisters usually localized to one side of your body or face. In addition to the pain, your shingles may also cause:

What causes the virus to reactivate isn’t clear but may be triggered by a weakened immune system that makes you more susceptible to infections.

Shingles most often affects older adults. However, even children can get a painful rash.

Managing your shingles pain

Intense pain is usually the first shingles symptom and precedes the rash. The best way to manage your shingles pain is to get medical help right away. 

Though we can’t wave a magic wand to clear up your shingles, we can prescribe an antiviral medication that may speed up healing and alleviate your symptoms. Shingles affects the nerves and we may also recommend other treatments to alleviate your pain, such as:

Cool baths and cold wet compresses may also help you manage your shingles pain. 

Your shingles may last three to five weeks. Most people only get shingles once. But a recurrence is possible, according to the National Institute on Aging.  

It’s also possible to continue to experience pain after your blisters clear up. This is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and develops when your damaged nerve fibers send mixed pain signals from your skin to your brain. 

Reducing your risk of shingles reactivation

You may be able to reduce your risk of getting shingles, and the pain that comes with the infection, by getting a vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults age 50 and older get the shingles vaccine, Shingrix, which is given in two doses within a two-to six-month window. 

The shingles vaccine is about 90% effective at preventing both shingles and PHN, notes the CDC. Though the vaccine can’t guarantee you won’t get shingles, it may reduce the duration and severity of the infection.

For those unable to get the vaccine, we provide recommendations that may prevent the reactivation of the virus. 

To get relief from your shingles pain, contact the office nearest you, and schedule an appointment today. 

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