What Exactly Are Shingles?
posted: Feb. 20, 2020.
Recently, your friend was diagnosed with shingles. You know her skin was blistered and very painful, and you wonder how it happened. At Three Rivers Dermatology in Pittsburgh, PA, your dermatologists, Dr. Damon McClain and Dr. Susannah Berke, accurately diagnose and treat this all too common viral infection, giving patients the relief they deserve. They also educate patients on what to watch for and how to prevent shingles.
Shingles' start in childhood
Remember when you went through chickenpox as a child? You had a fever and uncomfortable pustules all over your body. The illness is caused by the highly contagious varicella-zoster virus. This microbe lies dormant for many years, even decades. Later in life, it can express itself again as shingles.
The symptoms of shingles
When your dermatologists see shingles in their Pittsburgh, PA, office, it usually looks like an angry red, blistering rash on one side of the body. Locations include the face, neck, shoulder, or hip. Accompanying symptoms are itching, fever, chills, and fatigue. The pain from the rash is substantial and can last up to four weeks. Some people experience lingering nerve pain for months to years.
As days go on, the oozing blisters scab over, and the person is no longer contagious. As long as you cover the rash with clothing the chances of transmitting it to others are very low.
Dr. McClain or Dr. Berke typically prescribe an oral antiviral medication to limit the rash and control symptoms. The skin doctor may advise steroidal cream, calamine lotion, or oatmeal baths to increase comfort.
The best treatment for shingles is prevention. If possible, receive the shingles vaccine. Additionally, if you know someone who has shingles or chickenpox, avoid contact with their bodily fluids (saliva, mucus, or active lesions). Practice good hand washing. See your physician at the first signs of an outbreak. Some individuals notice a tingling, burning sensation on their skin before the rash develops.
Also, keep your immune system strong. The elderly, pregnant women, and those who are immunosuppressed due to cancer treatment, HIV infection, or other circumstances develop shingles more easily and have the most complications.
Learn more about shingles
At Three Rivers Dermatology, Dr. McClain and Dr. Berke provide outstanding skincare for patients of all ages. If you'd like more information about shingles, please contact our Pittsburgh office at (412) 262-4911.