Shingles (Herpes Zoster) (cont.)
Steven Doerr, MD
Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
In this Article
- Shingles (herpes zoster) facts
- What is shingles? What does shingles look like?
- What causes shingles?
- What are risk factors for shingles?
- What is the contagious period for shingles?
- What are shingles symptoms and signs?
- How is shingles diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for shingles?
- Are there any home remedies for shingles?
- What is the duration of a shingles outbreak?
- What are complications of shingles?
- What can be done for recurrent shingles?
- What is the prognosis of shingles?
- Is it possible to prevent shingles with a vaccine?
- Test Your IQ: Take the Shingles Quiz
- Pictures of Shingles - Slideshow
- Pictures of Shingles
- Shingles (Herpes Zoster) FAQs
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
How is shingles diagnosed?
Shingles can often be diagnosed by your doctor based upon the distinctive appearance and distribution of the characteristic shingles rash. A painful, blistering rash that is localized to defined dermatomes is highly suggestive of shingles. Blood work or other testing is usually not necessary. Diagnosing shingles before the appearance of the rash or in cases of zoster sine herpete (zoster without rash) can be challenging. In cases where the diagnosis is unclear, laboratory tests are available to help confirm the diagnosis. Depending on the clinical situation, testing can be done using either blood work (to detect antibodies to the varicella zoster virus) or by specialized testing of skin lesion samples.
What is the treatment for shingles?
The treatment for shingles is aimed at diminishing the effects of the virus, as well as pain management. There are several medications that can be used, and your doctor will discuss the best treatment options for your particular situation. The vast majority of cases of shingles can be managed at home. In some cases, people with an impaired immune system or individuals with severe symptoms and/or complications may require hospital admission.
Antiviral medications (medications used to combat viral infections) are used against the varicella zoster virus. These medications help shorten the course of the illness and decrease the severity of the illness. They may also help prevent the potential complications sometimes encountered with shingles. They are most effective when started within 72 hours of the first appearance of the rash. There are several antiviral medications that can be used, including acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex). In certain situations, intravenous (IV) antiviral medication may need to be administered.
Pain medication can be used to help relieve discomfort caused by the rash, which can sometimes be severe. For some individuals with mild pain, over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) may be all that is needed. Individuals with more severe pain may require stronger opioid pain medication.
Over-the-counter antihistamine medication such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help alleviate the localized itching.
The use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, is controversial in the treatment of shingles.
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