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Treating Shingles

Posted on: October 5th, 2016 by California Skin Institute

Here at California Skin Institute we help many patients who are suffering from Shingles. It’s a frustrating skin condition that can lead to significant discomfort, and even chronic pain. That’s why our providers will do everything possible to diagnose and treat Shingles in patients as quickly as possible. To help you better understand this skin condition, we’ve put together some great information for you. And if you suspect that you might have Shingles, or have any kind of rash, please schedule an appointment to see one of our dermatologists as soon as possible!

What is Shingles?

“Shingles is incredibly common,” says Dr. Lauren Gebauer, one of the expert Dermatologists at California Skin Institute. “Approximately one in three individuals will end up developing this condition. The reason why it’s so common is because it’s a manifestation of the chickenpox virus, so anyone who’s had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine is susceptible to developing Shingles during their lifetime.”

Who is Most at Risk of Developing Shingles?

Individuals who are most susceptible are those with a compromised immune system. “So anyone undergoing cancer treatments or dealing with HIV/AIDS is at higher risk of developing Shingles” continues Dr. Gebauer. “Women who are pregnant are also at higher risk, as well as patients over 60 years of age.”

But the good news is that this condition is highly unlikely to occur more than once in your lifetime. “Once you’ve had shingles, it’s usually a one and done situation. Of course, some individuals may experience it again, but for the most part it’s a solitary occurrence.”

What are the Symptoms of Shingles?

When it comes to Shingles symptoms, there are several common signs of this condition. The most obvious sign is the development of a rash. This rash typically presents on just one side of the body (or face), and can be accompanied by a tingling or burning sensation. A few days after initial appearance, the rash will typically begin to crust over.

How to Diagnose Shingles?

Unfortunately, the Internet Age has brought about many resources for self-diagnosing medical conditions. Skin rashes, however, can be notoriously difficult to diagnose without medical expertise. “Many patients experiencing Shingles may think it’s just an allergic reaction or contact dermatitis, so they don’t see a doctor” says Dr. Gebauer. “It’s a bad decision because they don’t get treatment in the crucial first days and increase the likelihood of developing chronic pain.”

The best way to diagnose this condition is to see a dermatologist who can provide a definitive answer and treatment plan. In cases of an irregular rash, California Skin Institute providers can even order a lab culture to confirm the root cause of the problem.

How to Treat Shingles

Shingles will typically heal without any medical intervention.* “The rash resolves within one to two weeks, so that’s not the biggest problem.* The main issue is the possible nerve pain that can develop at the site after the rash has healed.* As much as half the patients who don’t treat Shingles will end up developing this nerve pain, which is chronic in many cases.”*

To reduce the chances of developing nerve pain, it’s important to seek treatment for this condition as soon as possible.* The earlier the treatment starts after the first symptoms, the less likely this pain to develop.*

If the condition is diagnosed early, California Skin Institute providers can use options like an oral antiviral medication.* “We can start treatment at virtually any stage of the condition, but the optimal outcomes occur if treatment starts one or two days after initial symptoms.* That’s why it’s so important to get diagnosed right away,” suggests Dr. Gebauer.*

Is Shingles Contagious?

Typically, Shingles is not contagious for the general population unless there is direct contact with an open sore (therefore it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly after touching the rash).*

However, if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, it’s important to avoid physical contact with individuals who have a compromised immune system until your rash clears up.*

A Vaccine for Shingles

Some patients may want to take preventative action and get a Shingles vaccine.* Like all vaccines, this isn’t a guarantee that you won’t develop this skin condition.* However, “patients who get the vaccine and then have a Shingles outbreak are less likely to develop serious nerve pain.”*

Get the Right Diagnosis*

If you’ve developed a rash or suspect you may have Shingles it’s important to see a dermatologist right away.* Early treatment can improve comfort and reduce potential issues with chronic pain down the line.* To schedule your appointment, please call a California Skin Institute practice near you, or use the online scheduling portal now.*

(Dr. Lauren E. Gebauer is a board-certified, fellowship-trained dermatologic surgeon specializing in Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Additionally, she is skilled in multiple cosmetic procedures including neuromodulators, injectable fillers, and laser therapies.)

*Individual results may vary and are not guaranteed.