If you had chickenpox as a child, you now carry the herpes zoster virus in your body – for life. This virus will hide and lie inactive in nerve tissues in the brain and spinal cord (which together comprise the central nervous system).
In nearly 30% of all Americans, this virus will re-emerge later in life as shingles. If a patient has never had chickenpox before but is exposed to the virus by someone with active shingles, the patient will actually acquire chickenpox, not shingles.
While shingles is not life-threatening, it is very painful because of its presence around the nerves. Fortunately, there is a vaccine to protect against shingles. Even after an adult has had shingles, they still can and should get the shingles vaccine in order to make any future breakouts less severe. In fact, the vaccine should help manage some symptoms and can help to make it less painful.
If you do develop shingles, there are treatments that can lessen its severity and speed up the amount of time it takes to heal from the viral inflammation. Let’s talk about those treatments and how they work.
Treatments for Shingles
The best chance at fighting the shingles infection is within the first two weeks of the virus making an appearance. Treatment first involves pain-relief medicine.
Antiviral prescription medication is also imperative. These shingles-specific medications include Zovirax (Acyclovir) and Valtrex (Valacyclovir).
Treatment is based on the location of the breakout. If it is present in the neck or lower in the body, steroid injections can bring much-desired relief. If it is present in the head or face, then the treatment would likely be a nerve block.
Home treatments also help, and they include taking a cool bath and using cool compresses on the skin or area of the breakout. Your doctor may also recommend topical pain-relief patches, numbing creams, and even antidepressants if the pain is extreme.
What to Know About Shingles
Normally, shingles appear as a painful rash on one side of the body. It often looks like a wide stripe and can even wind around the torso. However, shingles can occur anywhere, including in the eye. This variation can make diagnosing shingles tough for physicians because it can be mistaken for a number of other conditions.
Be careful around family members if they have a shingles rash. The open sores of the shingles rash are contagious when present. Until those sores have firm scabs over them, the person remains capable of spreading the virus to others.
What Are the Vaccines for Shingles?
If you are interested in getting a vaccination for shingles, there are two options: Zostavax and Shingrix. Zostavax is generally for people over the age of 60 and lasts only about five years in the body. It is a single shot of a live virus, and it is usually administered in the arm.
Shingrix is the newer vaccine, and it is approved for people aged 50 and over, or for those who are younger and have a doctor’s prescription. This shingles vaccine is made of nonliving material, and it offers protection for more than five years; it is given in two doses, six months apart. This vaccine will not guarantee protection from shingles, but it will greatly lessen its severity if the patient does develop the condition.
Where Can I Get the Shingles Vaccine?
Our comprehensive clinic at Lynx Healthcare is here to take care of you and your family for a lifetime of good health. We can administer the shingles vaccine and all other immunizations you and your loved ones need.
Contact our friendly team today by calling us at (509) 591-0070 or fill out our online appointment request form now, and let us help you protect yourself against shingles.