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Shingles is a disease where the skin develops a viral infection, causing a painful rash. This condition can occur anywhere on the body, but generally often appears as a line of blisters covering the skin on the left or right side of the body.

Shingles is usually caused by a virus called varicella-zoster. This virus is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Therefore, most people with shingles have had chickenpox previously.

The development of the virus into shingles can occur many years after a person has had chickenpox. When the body recovers from chickenpox, the virus that is left behind will settle in the nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. The virus will be inactive for several years.

Shingles appears when the remaining virus becomes active again. Even though they originate from the same virus, the symptoms of shingles are very different from those of chickenpox.

Chickenpox usually causes blisters on the skin that feel itchy, starting in one area of ​​the body and spreading throughout the body. Meanwhile, shingles generally only occurs in one area of ​​the body and produces a painful rash. The rash will eventually form fluid-filled reddish blisters. These blisters will usually dry up within 7 to 10 days,

Although it’s not a life-threatening condition, shingles stills require special treatment to deal with the pain. 

Causes of Shingles

Shingles can occur due to infection of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Even though it is caused by the same virus, not all patients who have had chickenpox will experience shingles.

The exact cause of reactivation of the virus is still unknown. Some researchers assume that a weak immune system will affect the body’s ability to fight infection. Therefore, patients who have had chickenpox and a compromised immune system are more likely to develop shingles.

Shingles develops more commonly in adults and the elderly. This may be caused by a weakened immune system as you get older. 

When to See a Doctor for Shingles?

Patients diagnosed with shingles can consult about their symptoms with a dermatologist. When conducting an examination, the doctor will first ask about the patient’s medical history.

If shingles is suspected, the doctor will try to confirm the diagnosis by asking if the patient has had chickenpox before. Doctors can usually detect shingles just by looking at the patient’s skin condition.

Shingles will lead to a rash on the skin. The rash appears on one side of the face or body and causes burning pain and itching. This symptom begins with a red bump that gradually turns into blisters. 

The appearance of a rash on the skin is not the only symptom of shingles. Several other skin diseases may also cause similar symptoms. Therefore, doctors will conduct examinations such as:

  • Antibody test. A test done by measuring protein levels in the body. When the immune system tries to fight infection, protein is produced in larger amounts than normal. Antibody measurement can be done with a blood test.
  • Virus detection test. A test performed to detect the presence of the varicella-zoster virus in the rash. The doctor will take the blistered skin and crust from the wound as a sample and test it in the laboratory.

Symptoms of Shingles

The common symptoms of shingles are:

  • The rash only occurs on the left or right side of the body, not past the midsection.
  • In some cases, there is fever and headache.
  • The appearance of fluid-filled blisters a few days after the pain and burning on the skin. These blisters usually harden within one week.
  • Pain, burning, tingling, and itching that occurs for days to weeks before the appearance of the rash. Pain intensity can vary from person to person, and can be constant or may come and go.

The pain will typically not completely disappear even after the rash is gone.

In some cases, a rash can appear in the area of ​​one eye. Meanwhile in severe conditions, the rash will make it difficult for the patient to move the side of the face that is affected.

Treatment for Shingles

There is no exact cure for shingle. However, special treatment can be done to speed up recovery and reduce the risk of complications.

The doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines, such as:

  • Acyclovir.
  • Famciclovir.
  • Valacyclovir.

Antiviral medications will slow the progression of the rash caused by shingles. The medication will work better if taken in the first 72 hours after experiencing symptoms.

Symptoms of shingles may cause excruciating pain. For this reason, the doctor will help relieve the patient’s pain by providing pain relievers.

In severe cases, pain medication may no longer work to reduce the pain. When that happens, the doctor will replace the pain reliever with numbing medication to help the patient not feel pain in the affected area of ​​the body.

Treatment Cost for Shingles 

The cost of shingles treatment varies, depending on the severity and the treatment method. 

For more information regarding the estimated costs of shingles treatment, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Shingles

Shingles occurs because the virus left behind in the body reactivates and invades the body, causing an infection. It is unknown as to what triggers the virus to return. Therefore, there are no specific preventive measures for shingles.

However, shingles will only occur in people who have had chickenpox before. For this reason, patients who have recovered from chickenpox are advised to have regular check-ups to ensure that they remain healthy and that the virus does not return.

If you feel any shingles-like symptoms, you should immediately get tested for early treatment and prevent the condition from getting worse.

Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Shingles

Patients diagnosed with shingles can practice self-care at home to support or speed up recovery. These home remedies include: 

  • Wearing loose clothes and not rubbing against the rash.
  • Applying cold compress to the skin affected by the rash several times a day.
  • Routinely take paracetamol to relieve pain, in appropriate doses
  • Maintain the cleanliness of the skin affected by the rash and keep it dry to prevent the infection from worsening

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