Understanding Shingles and Treating This Debilitating Pain

When you have shingles, you may wonder just what you did to deserve it. A more worrying outcome is the possibility that this will cause postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), caused by viral damage to nerve cells. When you have chicken pox at a young age, most people think that they are done worrying about the virus. However, this is not so.

In older adulthood, shingles can arise from the dormant virus in your system and cause this painful condition. At Sports and Spine Orthopaedics, we understand how painful shingles can be, and we are dedicated to helping you overcome this condition and find relief.
illustration of PHN sin condition

Shingles certainly aren’t fun, but they are definitely treatable. We can walk you through the various steps in handling your shingles outbreak, and we can help you overcome it. If you have had chicken pox as a youngster, you are at risk for contracting shingles. It is worth it to know all you can about this condition.

Causes

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, but that is just the fancy name for the condition most people call chicken pox. After you have chicken pox in your youth, the virus migrates to your nervous system. From here, the virus lies dormant, and sometimes it decides to make a second appearance in adulthood. No one knows exactly why the virus reawakens, but those who are older and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk for the condition.

If you have shingles, you are contagious. If someone has not had chicken pox, then you can pass the virus on to them. However, they will get chicken pox first, not shingles. You should take care around newborns, those with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women if you are having an outbreak of shingles.

Symptoms

shingles arm rash Shingles usually manifests as pain and a rash.

However, you can have shingles that do not produce a rash and merely present as pain. The pain is very like the pain you would experience from nerve damage. You can have numbness, tingling, and burning from the shingles, and this may lead some to believe that the pain is from a pinched nerve in the back. We will do everything we can to rule out or confirm what is causing your pain.

The rash that comes along with shingles is quite noticeable. It is usually red, itchy, and follows the track of the pain. You can also develop blisters along this area, and those blisters can burst then crust over. One of the hallmark signs of shingles is a rash that forms a band around the right or left side of the torso.

Sometimes shingles can erupt near the eye. This is a medical emergency, because if the shingles progress to the eye, you could end up losing your sight. When you see the first signs of shingles – such as pain – you should get to a doctor for more definitive treatment.

Treatments

Shingles, like chicken pox, has no cure, but you can take certain medications to cut down on the severity of symptoms and stop the spread of the rash. For instance, anti-viral medications, such as acyclovir, can help keep the rash contained to a specific region. With this type of medication on board, you stand a fighting chance against more pain and possible eye involvement.

It will keep the complications, such as long-term pain problems even after a shingles outbreak, from occurring. This recurrent pain is known as post herpetic neuralgia, and it can continue for years after the shingles rash has disappeared.

Pain management is also important in the treatment of shingles. Anticonvulsants, such as Neurotin, can help with the pain signals sent from damaged nerves. Some anti-depressants are also showing promise in defeating nerve pain. In extreme situations, a narcotic pain medication may be necessary to control the pain from your shingles flare up.

Sports and Spine Orthopaedics has a team of professionals dedicated to helping you overcome your pain. Shingles can cause long-term nerve pain, and we are experts at dealing with this particular type of discomfort. If you have shingles or postherpetic neuralgia, call us or talk with Dr. Wolf for a consultation about your pain, we can help you find relief.