WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Herpes zoster (HZ) is also called shingles. It is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella-zoster virus). After you get chickenpox, the virus stays in your body for several years without causing any symptoms. HZ occurs when the virus becomes active again. Once active, the virus will travel along a nerve to your skin and cause a rash.
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If left untreated, HZ may cause eye problems, such as a drooping eyelid or blindness. It may lead to a brain infection or stroke. HZ can also cause nerve damage and lead to twitching, dizziness, or loss of taste and hearing. The blisters may leave scars or changes in skin color. HZ may cause pain even after the rash is gone. It may also lead to trouble moving parts of your body.
WHILE YOU ARE HERE:
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- Antiviral medicine: These help decrease symptoms and healing time. They may also decrease your risk of developing nerve pain. You will need to start taking them within 3 days of the start of symptoms to prevent nerve pain.
- Pain medicine: You may need NSAIDs, acetaminophen, or opioid medicine depending on how much pain you are in. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more pain medicine.
- Topical anesthetics: These are used to numb the skin and decrease pain. They can be a cream, gel, spray, or patch.
- Anticonvulsants: These decrease nerve pain and may help you sleep at night.
- Antidepressants: These may also be used to decrease nerve pain.
- Epidural medicine: This is put into your spine to block pain. This medicine treats severe pain that does not get better with other pain medicines. Epidural medicine includes numbing medicine and steroids.
Your caregiver may send skin scrapings or fluid from your blisters for tests to see if you have HZ.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.