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Managing the Pain of Shingles

Barb HicksAug 26, 2009 | edited Aug 26, 2009 - by @BarbHicks

There are over a million cases of Herpes Zoster or Shingles every year in the United States. This virus is the result of previously having chickenpox. Its symptoms include a red rash that appears out of nowhere, eventually turning into painful blisters that leak a clear fluid.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. However, the difference is that this virus remains dormant in the body for many years until something weakens the immune system. Once the immune system is compromised, the virus becomes reactivated.

What weakens the immune system?

Sources such as prolonged exposure to stress, HIV/AIDS, anti-rejection medications for organ transplant recipients and anyone receiving chemotherapy treatments are all things that weaken or compromise the immune system. This weakness then allows the virus to come alive and wreak havoc on the body. This virus will begin as a tingling and burning on the skin that appears to come out of nowhere without warning. The difference between shingles and chickenpox is that shingles will travel along the nerve route or dermatome and appear on only side of the body.

Time is a factor with the Herpes Zoster virus. In order for medications to work, they must be implemented within 72 hours of the initial outbreak. Unfortunately, this debilitating pain and discomfort can last up to six months and in some cases can become chronic, lasting for several years.

What you need to deal with the pain:

Excessive pain and discomfort accompany the Herpes Zoster virus. Therefore, pain medications and antivirals must be administered. However, in order for these medications to work, they must be implemented within 72 hours of the initial outbreak of symptoms.

Medication Management:

Corticosteroids: This is comprised of a drug called Prednisone which is combined with acyclovir which together reduces inflammation to the nerves while decreasing pain. In addition, they have also been proven to reduce residual nerve damage.

Analgesics: For many with mild to moderate pain, over-the-counter medications for pain can relieve this symptom. However, if the pain is severe, a doctor may need to prescribe a narcotic in order to manage the pain.

Lotions purchased at the local drug store such as calamine are effective in easing the pain of the seeping blisters. In addition, capsaicin is wonderful for the blisters that have already crusted over. Pain patches and nerve blocks are very beneficial in easing the pain and discomfort of zoster infections.

Herpes Zoster Keratitis (eye shingles) is a complication of herpes zoster, and is treated with antiviral medications. This serious complication can cause temporary or permanent vision loss, and needs medical treatment right away.

An additional serious complication of the zoster infection is Postherpetic Neuralgia. This condition is comprised of severe, debilitating pain that occurs long after the blisters have healed. Unfortunately, it can last for six months or longer and requires medications such as topical skin applications, analgesics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants in order to manage it.

The Herpes Zoster Virus is most common in people age sixty or older, however children and young adults contract this virus as well. Anyone who has not had the chickenpox should be vaccinated, if not, and you come in to contact with someone who has an active shingles infection, you could find yourself with the first case of chickenpox. In addition, it is important to remember that those having previously had the chickenpox are most vulnerable to the shingles infection.

About the Author:
joted9376 Author Mar 15, 2010
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it is true There are over a million cases of Herpes Zoster or Shingles every year in the United States. This virus is the result of previously having chickenpox. thanks..

edited Mar 15, 2010 - by @joted937628669
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