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The NSPA Blog

The Shingle Tingle

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Posted on April 2nd, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Infections, Patient Advocacy

According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans are likely to develop shingles in their lifetime

But lots of people still don’t know what shingles technically is

In plain terms, shingles is a viral infection that causes painful, itchy or tingly skin rashes. It comes from the virus varicella-zoster, the same virus that causes chicken pox in children. After chicken pox go away, the virus can lay dormant for years, until it resurfaces later in life as shingles. A new vaccine for shingles has been developed that’s highly effective, but lots of people aren’t getting it. Maybe it has something to do with people not knowing when they have it.

Signs, symptoms, and treatment

Doctors can easily identify shingles when symptoms manifest in rashes, but it may not be obvious right away at home. Typically, before the rash (or rashes) are in full development, shingles begin with a fever and general feeling of weakness. The rash comes a few days later, and is the most telling sign of what’s going on. Some people report shooting pains in the early stages of shingles. Pain typically increases as the rash transforms to blisters.

Shingles can heal on its own, however treatment options are available. Antiviral medications, as well as pain medications are typically prescribed for the scabbing rashes, but pain can be ongoing. The best way to prevent shingles is absolutely to get vaccinated. A new, more effective vaccine is out, but an already effective one has been out much longer.

From the Mayo Clinic 

When to see a doctor

Contact your doctor promptly if you suspect shingles, but especially in the following situations:

  • The pain and rash occur near an eye. If left untreated, this infection can lead to permanent eye damage.
  • You’re 60 or older, because age significantly increases your risk of complications.
  • You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system (due to cancer, medications or chronic illness).
  • The rash is widespread and painful.

Important things to keep in mind

Since shingles isn’t a totally straightforward virus, there are a few important things to always keep in mind. Anyone who has had chicken pox is vulnerable to developing shingles. If a person hasn’t had chicken pox, they’re vulnerable to contracting the virus from shingles and developing chicken pox, even if they’re an adult. Adults should be particularly careful around children with chicken pox, since they have weaker immune systems.

Even though treatment options exist, vaccination is the safest bet when it comes to shingles, especially for adults over 50. Don’t wait. Vaccinate.

 

As always, NShore Patient Advocates are available to answer any further questions. Let us know what you think!

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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