About 1 in 3 people in the United States will develop shingles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you had chickenpox as a child, you are at risk of developing shingles (herpes zoster) as you get older. Shingles occurs when the virus that caused your chickenpox (the varicella zoster virus) is reactivated, causing a painful rash with blisters.
The rash may appear on the trunk of the body or may follow nerve pathways – such as traveling from the hand, up the arm, to the shoulder, neck, and back.
When this occurs, the rash tends to occur on one side of the body, rather than both sides. The pain may persist, even after the rash goes away.
Shingles is believed to occur when stress, disease, medication, or the wear and tear of aging weakens the immune system. Most people who get shingles once will not get it again, although it does occasionally recur.
Treatment includes pain relief methods and antiviral medications. If interventional care is sought early enough, shingles pain can be treated effectively. Delayed medical attention may result in nerve damage.
The best time to treat shingles pain is within the first two weeks after its initial onset. After two months, the success rate goes down considerably. However, if a person is having persistent pain, even if it has been months or years after the initial outbreak of shingles, it is frequently worthwhile to undergo treatment, because some people still obtain outstanding results.
Treatment options will depend on the location of the shingles pain. If it is in the face, a stellate ganglion or trigeminal nerve block may be recommended. If the shingles is on the neck or lower on the body, a short series of gentle epidural steroid injections or lumbar sympathetic blocks may be administered. All of these treatments are performed on an outpatient basis.
To prevent shingles from occurring in the first place, doctors recommend children receive a chickenpox vaccine and adults 50 and older receive a shingles vaccine.