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Shingles

What are Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus)?

Shingles Fact Sheet

FACT SHEET

Shingles

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Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus) is a viral infection of the nerve roots. It causes pain and a rash that spreads on one side of your body. 

What causes Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus)?

Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus) is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. When an individual recovers from chicken pox, the virus which causes the disease does not leave the body; instead it becomes inactive and lies quietly in the cranial and spinal sensory nerves . The reason these viruses remain inactive is because of the high level of antibodies developed during the acute phase of chicken pox. With time, the level of antibodies in the blood decreases. If the level falls low enough, the virus in one of the nerves becomes activated producing Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus Infection). Also known as a secondary phase of chicken pox, it is confined to the distribution of one or two nerves. Anyone who has had chicken pox can get Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus); even those who are in good health. It is thought that the virus becomes active again when the immune system is weakened. Emotional or physical stress, such as an illness or injury, may weaken your immune system and trigger the reactivation of the virus. There are a few things that can increase your risk of developing the Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus):

  • Developing chicken pox prior to age 1
  • Being over the age of 50
  • Having a weakened immune system due to another disease
  • Having Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

What are the symptoms of Shingles?

Shingles symptoms include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Fever and chills
  • Upset stomach or abdominal pain
  • Itching
  • Pain, burning, tingling, numbness or extreme sensitivity in a certain part of your body
  • Developing a belt-shaped or band like rash
  • A rash that progresses into clusters of fluid-filled blisters

What are the stages of Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus)?

There are three stages to the development of Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus):

Stage 1: Prodromal - the prodromal stage of Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus) is the period before the actual Shingles rash appears.

Stage 2: Active stage - the active stage of Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus) occurs when a rash of painful blisters is present. Pain may continue for months or even years after the blisters heal. 

Stage 3: Chronic pain - the chronic pain stage of Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus) is known as postherpetic neuralgia pain, and it affects up to 20 percent of those who experience Shingle (Herpes Zoster Virus). Up to 50% of people over the age of 50 with Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus) develop postherpetic neuralgia pain.

What are Shingles treatment options?

Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus)can be very difficult to treat. Antiviral medications can be used to reduce the pain and duration of this condition. Pain management doctors often use:

  • Sympathetic blocks - which cause pain relief and resolution of skin lesions within 24-48 hours. Occasionally, a second and even third injection is necessary, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
  • Antiseizure medications - medications such as Lyrica® are often used as a form of Shingles treatment.
  • Antidepressant medications and topical medications - sometimes used to treat long-term pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia pain.

If anti-viral medications are begun within the first 2-3 days of the Shingles rash, your chances of developing complications, like postherpetic neuralgia pain, decrease.

For additional information on Shingles (Herpes Zoster Virus), please call Southeast Pain and Spine Care to schedule an appointment with one of our pain management doctors.

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