Chickenpox is a common virus known for being exceedingly itchy but mostly harmless (at least when it’s contracted by children). While symptoms of chickenpox eventually clear up and go away, the varicella zoster virus (VZV) that causes it never leaves the body. This remnant virus can eventually develop into a herpes zoster infection, more commonly known as shingles.
Like Chickenpox, there is no cure for herpes zoster, just treatments for the symptoms. The older you become, the more likely it is for you to develop a herpes zoster infection.
Shingles develops in only 10 percent of people who have had Chickenpox, and more than half of those shingles sufferers are over the age of 50. Although uncommon, it is possible for younger people to develop shingles. Some factors that can contribute to the development of shingles can be stress, trauma or a weakened immune system.
Symptoms for herpes zoster are easily recognizable and treatable.
Herpes Zoster Infection Symptoms
A herpes zoster Infection is often characterized by the painful blisters or rash that develops on the body. Infected individuals may notice a tingling sensation under their skin a few days before the blisters and rash appear.
Physical Characteristics of Shingles / Herpes Zoster Infections
The back and chest are the areas of the body most commonly affected by herpes zoster outbreaks. Rashes and blistering may appear on the neck and face as well.
Although shingles outbreaks in the leg and groin area are rare, they can potentially occur. While there are several other types of infection that may appear on the legs and near the groin area, these infections often look different than a herpes zoster infection.
Shingles will often manifest first as fluid-filled blisters. These blisters may burst open and become crusty and itchy. The rash will often appear in a band like shape on affected parts of the body.
If you have a blistering rash on one half of your lower body but not the other, you may have a herpes zoster Infection.
Some other symptoms associated with a herpes zoster Infection include:
- Sensitivity to light
There is no cure for shingles, however these symptoms can be managed with treatment.
Herpes Zoster Infection Treatment
If you believe you have a herpes zoster infection, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment as soon as possible. There are several antiviral treatment options for shingles, but these treatments are most effective when applied near the initial onset of symptoms.
Your doctor may prescribe acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir, among other types of medication. There are several additional at-home symptom management steps you can take to alleviate the discomfort caused by shingles.
A wet compress on the rash, or calamine lotion, can help with the pain and blistering. You can also take a lukewarm colloidal oatmeal bath to soothe your skin.
Other treatments for herpes zoster infection include a lumbar sympathetic block. This type of treatment works best for shingles on the leg. A steroid medication can be injected near the nerve that the shingles virus is attacking.
Complications following a shingles infection are unlikely, but it’s important to consult with your doctor about long-term risks and side effects.
PHN, also known as postherpetic neuralgia, is the most common complication following a herpes zoster outbreak. If an antiviral treatment is sought within the first 72 hours (about 3 days) of a shingles rash appearing, you are unlikely to develop any complications.
PHN is characterized by sensitivity of the area where the rash appeared. In extreme cases, even the sensation of clothing on the affected skin can be extremely painful. These symptoms can last months after the initial outbreak.
How Do I Know I Need to See a Doctor for a Rash or Blisters?
If you have a painful blistering rash that you believe might be shingles, seek medical attention and a professional diagnosis. Symptoms become more manageable with antiviral treatments, which reduce the risk of developing complications following the infection.
Our team at AllSpine Laser and Surgery Clinic are highly trained and can offer relief from shingles symptoms affecting certain parts of the body. We have several locations in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact us at 770-997-0600 to schedule your appointment or learn more about our services on our website.