Shingles is a common medical condition that occurs when the dormant chickenpox virus becomes active again. Anyone who had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles. There are ways to decrease your chances of a shingles outbreak and reduce the likelihood of complications if you have shingles.
The shingles vaccine is encouraged for adults 60 and older, since shingles outbreaks are more common as you age. However, even if you are under age 60, you should ask your doctor if you are at risk if you have certain medical conditions. Any medical condition or medication, which causes immunosuppression, can make you vulnerable to shingles. If you are going to start high doses of steroids or other immunosuppressive medications, you should weigh the benefits of the vaccine with your doctor.
Seek Prompt Treatment
If you ever experience a sudden rash, you should have it evaluated by a medical professional for a proper diagnosis. Shingles often has a characteristic rash which usually only affects one side of the body and is painful. The rash is often described as burning and itching. Prompt treatment with antiviral medications can help shorten the duration of shingles and reduce the chances of complications. Since the shingles virus is in the nerves, it can cause long-term, painful nerve damage. In rare cases, the rash can spread near the eye and cause loss of eyesight.
Your doctor can also help you determine ways to minimize viral transmission. If someone around you has not had chickenpox, you should not have direct contact with them. Although the virus is only transmitted by contact with the blisters, it is possible to spread the virus to vulnerable people through cross-contamination, such as not washing your hands. Keeping your rash covered can help you avoid cross-contamination.
Try Soothing Home Care
Much like chickenpox, little can be done to help with the pain and itching caused by shingles. In addition to prescribed or over-the-counter pain medications, your focus should be on making yourself as comfortable as possible. You may want to try applying calamine lotion to help soothe your skin and heal areas of irritation. Cool showers or a cool, damp cloth applied to the rash can also be soothing. Try to wear loose clothing made with soft fabrics to minimize contact with your skin. You need to be mindful of scratching the rash, which can increase your risk of infection.
For more information, contact Dermatology Surgery Center or a similar location.