Shingles Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment
Shingles Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Shingles is a skin condition characterized by a painful rash with blisters. It affects nerves and the skin being served by these nerves. Shingles is viral in nature and is caused by the chickenpox virus. The disease is also known as herpes zoster.
You can contract shingles only if you already had chickenpox in the past. This is because when you got chickenpox before, its virus stays in your nerves but lays formant until it becomes reactivated in a certain nerve.
Shingles can show up several years or decades after your initial chickenpox infection. Most people who suffered from chickenpox as a child often get shingles as they become young or middle-aged adults.
Triggers for shingles
It appears that a weak immune system triggers the reawakening of the dormant chickenpox virus in the human nerves, resulting in a shingles infection. Since the new infection is viral in nature, it doesn’t have a definite cure. Instead, treatment plans are focused on alleviating symptoms to help sufferers better cope with the disease.
Shingles usually affects the chest or stomach, but it can generally grow anywhere in the body. You may get the painful blistering rashes in your face and even near your eyes.
In most cases, you experience a variety of subtle symptoms even before the rash begins to appear:
Tingling and numbness in the affected areas
Elevated body temperature
A generally weakened feeling
When the rash comes out, here are some of the additional symptoms you may get:
- A red, inflamed rash coupled with a prickling sensation
- Blisters with fluids that appear in striped long patterns or in groups
- Stabbing pains
- Extreme itching and pain characterize the rashes and fluid-filled blisters.
All these symptoms can continue to persist for a few weeks to around a full month.
Shingles isn’t typically a serious illness. But it can cause complications such as post-herpetic neuralgia, a form of nerve pain that may be present in a previously infected person 3 months after the rashes healed. This symptom may be seen in 1 out of 10 sufferers.
Book an appointment with a Mobidoctor GP now if you are highly concerned about long-term complications of shingles.
Onset: May vary
Shingles usually affects previous chickenpox sufferers years or decades after their original infection. The disease is highly contagious and can even affect persons who never had chickenpox before.
Stage two: Reactivation
When your immune system significantly weakens, there is a huge chance that the chickenpox virus will reactivate and cause a bout of shingles. This is why the disease is common for immunocompromised people such as HIV patients and elderly people.
The reactivation phase brings about o host of initial symptoms even without a rash. You may experience frequent headaches, fevers, and a general feeling of weakness and fatigue. Burning sensations, tingling, and sensation loss in certain body areas are also common during this time.
Stage three: Rash
This stage is characterized by the appearance of rashes in groups with a striped long pattern to boot. Rash appearance is accompanied by extreme itching and pain on affected skin areas. You can manage the rash by avoiding scratching the areas, keeping the skin clean and dry, and wearing loose clothing that doesn’t rub on the rashes and blisters.
After a couple of weeks, you’ll see the rashes begin to burst and crust as they enter a period of recovery. The rashes will then eventually clear up by itself. Your physician may prescribe antiviral medications by this time to help manage your symptoms better.
Stage four: Postherpetic neuralgia
A few shingles patients go on to have pain and numbness in the affected areas months or years after their shingles reactivation. This condition is called postherpetic neuralgia and may cause pain so severe it prevents a person from effectively doing activities of daily living.
Since shingles is viral in nature, it doesn’t have a specific cure. It is a self-limiting illness that clears up on its own. However, several physicians advise the following treatment options to help sufferers deal better with symptoms:
- Prescription oral anti-viral medications to reduce the duration of infection
- Oral and topical pain medications and antidepressants to alleviate chronic pain
Book an appointment with your Mobidoctor GP right away if you think you have shingles or your pain persists after a bout of infection.
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