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Shingles | Herpes Zoster

Patients with shingles can experience symptoms of pain and discomfort that interfere with daily activity. Providers at MaineHealth make sure that patients with shingles receive appropriate treatment early in order to shorten the viral infection and lessen the chance of complications.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection. A painful skin rash develops in a band or strip on one side of the face or body. People with shingles typically have only one episode of the virus. Sometimes shingles can return.

Shingles causes

Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster, the same strain of virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in certain nerves. The virus can reactivate later in life, causing shingles. The cause of the reactivation is unclear. People are more likely to develop shingles if they:

  • Are over the age of 60

  • Had chickenpox before age one

  • Have weakened immune systems

Shingles symptoms

Symptoms of shingles develop in stages. Initial symptoms may include pain, tingling, or burning on one side of the body before any rash appears.

A painful rash will then develop on one side of the face or body. The rash typically looks like skin redness with small blisters.  Other symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills

  • Headache

  • Joint pain

  • Swollen glands

  • Upset stomach

 Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of shingles.

Primary care is your first stop for healthcare

The primary care providers at MaineHealth have the compassion and skill to care for you and the entire family. They make your health and your family’s health the first priority.

How do I know if I have shingles?

Make an appointment to see your primary care provider. Doctors generally can diagnose shingles by looking at the rash on the affected area of the body. Tests are rarely needed, but herpes tests on cells taken from a blister can help reach a diagnosis of shingles.

Early treatment for shingles is key

It is important for patients with shingles to receive early treatment to decrease symptoms and prevent future complications. Some of the treatment methods include:

  • Antiviral drugs

  • Corticosteroids

  • Antihistamines

  • Pain medicine

  • Wet compresses

  • Calamine lotion

  • Colloidal oatmeal baths

Shingles prevention

A shingles vaccine is available as a prevention strategy. It is not intended to treat people who currently have the disease. Talk to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine.