What is herpes zoster, and what are the causes?
Herpes zoster, or shingles, is a viral infection that causes a painful rash or blisters on the skin. Caused by the varicella-zoster virus, shingles lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain after you’ve had chickenpox. While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be extremely painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk while early treatment can help shorten the infection.
Nearly a third of all people in the United States will develop the condition, with about half of those cases occurring in patients over the age of 60. People who have been seriously ill or have weakened immune systems—such as those with HIV or cancer—are also at higher risk of developing shingles.
If you have shingles, you can pass the virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox. However, that person would develop chickenpox instead of shingles.
What are the symptoms, and how do they progress?
Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso. Pain is usually the first symptom. For some, it can be so intense that they experience the pain without ever developing the rash. The pains are itching, stabbing, or shooting. There is a tingling feeling in or under the skin, and the skin is red in the affected area.
You may also experience
- burning or numbness
- sensitivity to touch
- a red rash that begins a few days after the pain
- fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
- in extreme cases: fevers, headaches, sensitivity to light, and fatigue.
To diagnose shingles, your doctor will review the history of pain on one side of your body along with the telltale rash and blisters. Your doctor may also take a tissue scraping or culture of the blisters for examination in the laboratory.
What are some home remedy solutions?
You should see your doctor as soon as possible to receive proper medication, but you can manage pain caused by shingles at home. Taking a cool bath or applying cold, wet compresses to the rash may help relieve the itching and pain. Many shingles patients also find success with calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths. Over-the-counter medications can be effective in relieving mild pain. If possible, try to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
Treating Painful herpes zoster at NWA Interventional Pain
There is no cure for shingles, but prompt treatment with antiviral medication can ease discomfort and speed up the healing process. However, if we’re seeing you in the pain clinic, you have probably missed the 48-hour window for initial treatment. We can help with pain management until your shingles clear up after a couple of weeks.
We have a variety of treatments available. Topical and oral medications can provide temporary relief, and stronger medicines can attack and prevent nerve pain known as postherpetic neuralgia, which lasts long after the visible shingles symptoms disappear.
Our pain treatment clinic will also employ interventional techniques such as epidural steroid injections . The corticosteroid can deposit powerful anti-inflammatory medication near the pressure points around irritated and swollen nerve roots. Since there are important structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and spinal fluid nearby, it’s important to have the procedure performed at a pain treatment center by a Fellowship Trained Interventional Pain Doctor. We are part of a select class who has pursued additional training to provide you with state of the art care.
What sort of problems can occur after pain treatment?
All drugs or combination of drugs can have various side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, increased heartbeat, and impaired memory. Talk with your doctor about any changes once drug therapy begins.
Injections do not work for everyone, so you should maintain an open dialogue with the pain control clinic about the progress of your treatment. If your symptoms become more severe, you develop a fever of over 101, or you notice redness or drainage at the injection site, you should call your pain doctor or go to the nearest ER.