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Exams and Tests
Doctors can usually identify shingles when they see an area of rash around the left or right side of your body. If a diagnosis of shingles is not clear, your doctor may order lab tests, most commonly herpes tests, on cells taken from a blister.
If there is reason to think that shingles is present, your doctor may not wait to do tests before treating you with antiviral medicines. Early treatment may help shorten the length of the illness and prevent complications such as postherpetic neuralgia.
There is no cure for shingles, but treatment may shorten the length of illness and prevent complications. Treatment options include:
As soon as you are diagnosed with shingles, your doctor probably will start treatment with antiviral medicines. If you begin medicines within the first 3 days of seeing the shingles rash, you have a lower chance of having later problems, such as postherpetic neuralgia.
The most common treatments for shingles include:
For severe cases of shingles, some doctors may have their patients use corticosteroids along with antiviral medicines. But corticosteroids are not used very much any more. This is because studies show that taking a corticosteroid along with an antiviral medicine doesn't help any more than just taking an antiviral medicine by itself.2
If you have pain that persists longer than a month after your shingles rash heals, your doctor may diagnose postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of shingles. PHN can cause pain for months or years. It affects 10 to 15 out of 100 people who experience shingles.3 Treatment to reduce the pain of postherpetic neuralgia includes:
Topical creams containing capsaicin may provide some relief from pain. There is also a high-dose skin patch available by prescription (Qutenza) for postherpetic neuralgia. Capsaicin may irritate or burn the skin of some people, and it should be used with caution.
Treatment if the condition gets worse
In some cases, shingles causes long-term complications. Treatment depends on the specific complication.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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