If you had Chicken pox as a child, you still have in your system the same virus that can cause Shingles later in life. The Herpes Zoster virus lies dormant after chicken pox has resolved in the sensory nerves of the nervous system. After having it, your immune system becomes robust to this virus and keeps the virus from activating. You might be lucky enough to never develop Shingles later on.
However, when your immune system is weakened by illness, cancer, injury, or emotional/physical stress, the virus can reemerge and cause Shingles.
Age is an additional risk factor, as the incidence of Shingles increases after the age of 50.
What are the symptoms?
Patients can experience onset of fluid filled blisters or rash, usually following a specific nerve, which develop on the side of the face, chest, arms or legs.
Other symptoms include burning, sharp pain, sensitivity to touch, itching along the rash distribution. All told, Shingles can be quite painful.
If you feel any early signs or see a rash form, contact your physician right away. You maybe prescribed an anti-viral medication, which can shorten and reduce the severity of the outbreak in some cases, but it is important to start the medications quickly (within the first 72hrs).
In some cases, patients may develop Postherpetic Neuralgia, a condition where pain persists even after the rash has healed. Treatment of this painful condition often requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Medications of different classes for neuropathic pain can be prescribed. Physicians can also perform interventional nerve blocks to reduce the pain when indicated.
Southeast Pain and Spine Care providers have an extensive experience in treating this painful condition.
Please have your physician refer you or contact our office for an appointment.
Richard Park M.D.