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is a painful rash. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella-zoster). After you get chickenpox, the virus stays in your body for several years without causing any symptoms. Shingles occurs when the virus becomes active again. The active virus travels along a nerve to your skin and causes a rash.
Common signs and symptoms include the following:
Shingles often starts with pain in the back, chest, neck, or face. A rash then develops in the same area. The rash is usually found on only one side of the body. The rash may feel itchy or painful. It starts as red dots that become blisters filled with fluid. The blisters usually grow bigger, become filled with pus, and then crust over after a few days. You may also have any of the following:
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Pain when your skin is lightly touched
- Eye pain when exposed to light
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have trouble moving your arms, legs, or face.
- You have a seizure.
Call your doctor if:
- You have weakness in an arm or leg.
- You become confused, or have difficulty speaking.
- You have dizziness, a severe headache, or hearing or vision loss.
- You have painful, red, warm skin around the blisters, or the blisters drain pus.
- Your neck is stiff or you have trouble moving it.
- You feel weak or have a headache.
- You have a cough, chills, or a fever.
- You have abdominal pain or nausea, or you are vomiting.
- Your rash becomes more itchy or painful.
- Your rash spreads to other parts of your body.
- Your pain worsens and does not go away even after you take medicine.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Antiviral medicine helps 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 may be prescribed or suggested by your healthcare provider. 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 take more pain medicine.
- Topical anesthetics are used to numb the skin and decrease pain. They can be a cream, gel, spray, or patch.
- Anticonvulsants decrease nerve pain and may help you sleep at night.
- Antidepressants may be used to decrease nerve pain.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Keep your rash clean and dry. Cover your rash with a bandage or clothing. Do not use bandages that stick to your skin. The sticky part may irritate your skin and make your rash last longer.
Prevent the spread of shingles:
The virus can be passed to a person who has never had chickenpox. This person may get chickenpox, but not shingles. You may pass the virus to others as long as you have a rash. The virus is spread by direct contact with the fluid from the blisters. Usually, you cannot spread the virus once the blisters dry up.
Prevent shingles or another shingles outbreak:
A vaccine may be given to help prevent shingles. Ask for more information about this vaccine.
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