Shingles Treatment in Santa Monica, CA
What Is Shingles?
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is characterized by a painful skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus which causes chickenpox in adolescence. After you contract chickenpox, the virus lays dormant in the nervous system and can be reactivated when your immune system becomes compromised in adulthood.
One in three Americans, roughly one million per year, experience shingles—most of whom are older than 60. The older you get, the higher your risk for shingles, because as you age your immune system weakens and is less equipped to fight off the varicella zoster virus.
Diagnosing and treating shingles early can prevent more serious ramifications of the disease and alleviate the extreme discomfort which is often associated with the virus. To schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional in Santa Monica who specializes in shingles treatment, call (424) 365-1800 or contact Dr. Jeremy Fischer online.
What Causes Shingles?
Two factors are needed for shingles to occur:
- The presence of the dormant shingles virus in your body; and
- A compromised immune system (whether temporary or ongoing)
Your immune system may be compromised temporarily by:
- A period of illness or injury
- Extreme stress or trauma
- Taking medications like steroids that depress your immunity
Your immune system may also be compromised long-term, increasing your eventual chances of developing shingles, due to:
- Disease states like AIDs, cancer or Cushing’s syndrome, which impact your immune system
- Long-term illness
- Long-term use of medications that depress immunity
To experience shingles, you must have had exposure to the virus originally through chickenpox. Most people get shingles only once, but some develop shingles a second or third time.
Is shingles contagious? You cannot catch shingles from a person with shingles, but if you have never had chickenpox (and have never been immunized against chickenpox), you can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles.
Shingles Symptoms and Diagnosis
The hallmark of shingles is its painful rash. It forms a band or a patch of raised dots, usually only on one side of your body. The shingles rash develops into fluid-filled, red, round blisters. These blisters may break open and crust and can take days to weeks to clear up.
Shingles may also cause the following symptoms:
The manner in which shingles manifests is quite variable. The telltale rash usually appears on your trunk on only one side of your body. However, it may also appear around your waistline, on your abdomen or back. Sometimes it appears on your face or scalp. Damage to your vision and hearing may occur, especially when you experience the shingles rash on your face. Sometimes shingles sufferers do not develop a rash at all but still experience the stabbing nerve pain and itching along with all—or none—of the other symptoms.
A diagnosis of shingles can be made after your healthcare provider takes a complete medical history and conducts a physical examination, especially of your rash pattern. Skin scrapings or fluid swabs may also be used to confirm the presence of shingles.
Shingles Rash Treatment
If you can catch shingles within the first 48 to 72 hours, it can be effectively treated with prescription antivirals. Studies show the symptoms do not last as long and rates of complications are reduced. Additional medications available for treating shingles include:
- Anticonvulsant drugs which disrupt the pain cycle by decreasing abnormal firing of nerve cells
- Epidural steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain
- Topical anesthetics like capsaicin cream or lidocaine
Depending on the severity of your shingles, co-morbidities and your overall health, shingles may require hospitalization, but it can usually be treated at home with one or several medications prescribed by your healthcare provider. The best shingles treatment is prevention. A shingles vaccine can reduce your risk of developing chickenpox reactivation by 50 percent, and is especially critical for adults over the age of 60.
How long does shingles last? Shingles recovery normally takes several weeks. If shingles persist, post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) may be at play. PHN develops when there is permanent nerve damage from shingles. PHN can cause ongoing itching and chronic pain for months or years after a shingles outbreak. Over one million cases of shingles are diagnosed each year in the U.S., and 40 percent of shingles sufferers develop PHN, experiencing ongoing bouts of pain and itching, sometimes for years.
If you are experiencing what you believe to be shingles, schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider in Santa Monica who specializes in shingles rash treatment. Call (424) 365-1800 or contact Dr. Jeremy Fischer online.
Vitality Integrative Medicine
Address4849 Van Nuys Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Tue: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Wed: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Thu: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Fri: 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sat: 8:00 am - 12:00 pm