Symptoms and Signs of Shingles

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 6/22/2022

Doctor's Notes on Shingles

Shingles is a skin disease caused by a reactivation of infection with the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is also referred to as herpes zoster and occurs many years after the original chickenpox infection, most often in older adults. Shingles is also more common in people with weakened immune systems.

Shingles produces characteristic signs and symptoms on one side of the body. A painful skin rash is common and may be preceded by a few days of tingling, stinging, itching, or burning of the affected area of skin. The rash is red, raised, and contains fluid-filled blisters. The rash appears in a stripe pattern along the path of a nerve, known as a dermatome. Associated symptoms can include headache, body aches, fever, chills, and nausea.

What Is the Treatment for Shingles?

The treatment for shingles may involve antiviral drugs if these can be administered promptly. These can reduce the duration of outbreaks and reduce complications. Pain control is also an important part of shingles treatment. Pain control options for shingles can include topical capsaicin patches, anticonvulsants, or tricyclic antidepressant drugs, which have been shown to help control nerve pain, numbing medications such as lidocaine, or local anesthetics.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.