Reno Pain

Shingles Pain

Best Shingles Pain
Doctors in Reno, Sparks and Carson City, Nevada.

Shingles Pain

Not everyone has to worry about getting shingles, right? Wrong. Older people who never got chickenpox as a child, or who never had the shingles vaccine are at risk for developing this painful viral infection. If you believe you might be at risk for shingles, or feel you are suffering from the painful effects of shingles, there is help on the horizon. The Nevada Advanced Pain Specialists in the Reno, Sparks and Carson City areas are equipped to help you avoid pain and get out of pain as quickly and comfortably as possible, as well as mitigate any lasting effects of the shingles virus. 


What is Shingles?

Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a viral infection that affects the nerves and causes a painful and inflamed rash on the skin. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. For the majority of people who received the chickenpox vaccine during their early years, shingles is not a major concern. However, for adults who never received the vaccine or who contracted chickenpox as a child, there is a real threat of experiencing the shingles virus. This is because the virus remains dormant in their system. While many adults might not experience shingles, there is a large portion of the adult population who will suffer from the rash when the virus becomes active. 


It’s not clear as to why some adults might experience shingles while others don’t. Sometimes adults over the age of 60 and who had chickenpox as a child still develop shingles. Other adults who have a compromised immune system might also be at higher risk for the virus to activate. 


When determining if shingles is contagious, the answer boils down to the vaccine. If an adult with shingles comes into contact with a child who is unvaccinated, the child might develop chickenpox. However, if an adult with shingles comes into contact with another adult, vaccinated or not, that adult will most likely not develop shingles. 


What Does Shingles Feel Like?

Shingles occurs in stages. Most healthy adults will experience symptoms for a few weeks, while other less healthy adults might experience symptoms for a few months. Preliminary symptoms include feelings of burning or tingling before the rash appears. Some patients even report feelings of chills, upset stomach, fatigue, headaches, fever, dizziness, and sensitivity to light. 


As the virus progresses, patients can expect to deal with joint pain, swollen glands and a burning pain. The rash is generally focused on one side of the body or in one main location, such as the spine, stomach or chest. While less often, the rash can be seen on the face or mouth. The next stage after the rash stage is the blister stage, which can painfully burst and cause ulcers. The ulcers should heal within a few weeks, and patients are advised not to scratch the blisters. Additional symptoms can include facial distortion, abdominal pain, and vision issues. 


Who is at Risk for Developing Shingles?

Adults who had chickenpox as a child are more at risk for developing shingles if they also:


  • Have a weakened immune system (people with cancer, for instance)
  • Have recently been ill
  • Are at least 50 years old
  • Have recently experienced a traumatic life event
  • Are under an extreme amount of stress


After a person has chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. For the majority of people, the virus remains dormant. However, in instances where the virus becomes reactivated, researchers believe it’s because a person is going through a period of stress. 


How is Shingles Treated?

The best way to treat shingles is to partner with a pain management specialist as soon as you experience the early signs of symptoms. Not only will your provider be able to help you mitigate your symptoms, they will also be able to help you avoid long-lasting symptoms, which include postherpetic neuralgia, which is when the virus damages the nerves. Postherpetic neuralgia symptoms can range from mild to severe, can last for months or years after the shingles virus has been resolved, and additional complications can include deafness, blindness, another attack of shingles, infection, or more. The good news is that postherpetic neuralgia can generally be avoided by seeking professional care as quickly as possible. 


Your pain management specialist will perform a physical exam, review your health and medical history, as well as ask if you have the herpes zoster vaccine or not. If you are deemed to have shingles, then treatment can begin immediately. 


While there is no cure for shingles, the symptoms can be treated. The most popular and effective treatment options include: 


  • Antiviral medications: these medications help to fight the virus, as well as reduce pain and complications. It’s recommended to start taking medications within the first signs of shingles. 
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: reducing inflammation of the nerves where the rash is seen can help to reduce pain and additional symptoms
  • Antihistamines: these help to reduce itching for patients who are experiencing that symptom
  • Over-the-counter pain medications: patients have reported feeling pain relief when using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and even Zostrix (a cream) has shown to help reduce the risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia
  • At-home care: cool, wet compresses and soothing baths and lotions can help to alleviate the itching and burning symptoms. Yoga and meditation can also help a person to refocus their energy on something other than their symptoms. It’s important to also focus on keeping items clean and disinfected after a person with shingles has come into contact with them, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who might be at risk for developing shingles. 


The goal of shingles treatment is to reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of the virus. Seeking immediate care from a pain management specialist is key for managing the symptoms as well as reducing the chances for any additional and long-lasting complications. 


It is also important to note that receiving the herpes zoster vaccine can significantly reduce a person’s chances of experiencing shingles, as well as avoiding the devastating effects of postherpetic neuralgia. 

If you believe you are suffering from the onset of shingles, or you think you might have shingles and would like to avoid further complications, please schedule an appointment with the Nevada Advanced Pain Specialists in the Reno, Sparks and Carson City areas. While shingles can cause a painful situation for those at risk, there’s proven treatment methods that can help.

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