Shingles – Diagnosis and Treatment

Shingles – Diagnosis and Treatment

 Shingles (caused by Herpes Zoster) is often excruciatingly painful, and the risk of contracting it increases with age. Around 25 percent of all adults aged 50 and older will develop this viral disease unless vaccinated against it (per the National Institutes of Health). According to the Centers for Disease Control(CDC), the most common Shingles complication is postherpetic neuralgia.

The CDCalso reports that between 10-15 percent of people afflicted with Shingles will develop this type of nerve pain. If you are one of those people, you may benefit by a visit to Tristate Pain Institute. Our medical providers at our sites in Arizona and Nevada treat neuropathic pain such as occurs subsequent to Shingles infection.


How is Shingles Diagnosed?

If you have never had Chicken Pox, you are more likely to develop Shingles (since the same virus causes both infections). One of the usual bases for a Shingles diagnosis is the appearance of a specific rash (and blisters) that are the features of Shingles. These distinctive blisters usually run down one side of the body – following the path of a nerve. Through culturing of a blister, a lab-based diagnosis is typically confirmed. 

However, an atypical presentation of Shingles can occur in people who have compromised immune systems (as occurs in many people living with leukemia and other blood cancers).


Pregnancy and Impact of Shingles

Shingles is most likely to be occur in people aged 60 and older, but young adults and children can also develop Shingles. While a Herpes Zosterinfection does not increase the risk of fetal mortality, it does increase the risk of maternal morbidity (per an article in 2018 in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology). This article notes that the two predominant complications in pregnant women are subacute herpetic neuralgia and postherpetic neuralgia.


Medications Used to Treat Shingles

The Mayo Clinic notes that two antiviral drugs are used to treat Shingles (and these are Acyclovirand Valacyclovir). Additionally noted on their website are the following medications utilized in the treatment of Shingles-related pain:

  • Numbing agents (e.g.,lidocaine, delivered via a cream, gel, spray, or skin patch);
  • Capsaicin (chili pepper extract with analgesic properties) as a topical patch;
  • Corticosteroids and local anesthetics via injection;
  • Anticonvulsants (e.g.,gabapentin);
  • Narcotic-containing medications (e.g.,codeine);
  • Specific tricyclic antidepressants


Alternative Treatments for Shingles Pain

Four alternative treatments for nerve pain consequent to Shingles are suggested by the American Association of Retired Persons(AARP). These are:

  1. Acupuncture treatments;
  2. Cupping;
  3. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS);
  4. Stress Reduction Therapy

The physicians at Tristate Pain Institute understand that nerve pain can interfere with activities of daily living, and we work with you to determine a pain management plan tailored to your needs.

Clinical Trials and Shingles

A currently-recruiting clinical trial included on the federal website is sponsored by the University of Washingtonin Seattle. First posted to this online database on December 8, 2015, it is titled Immune Response to Shingles Vaccination (Clinical Trials Identifier Number:  NCT02624375). 

Yet another currently-recruiting clinical trial is sponsored by New York University School of Medicine, and titled Zoster Eye Disease Study (ZEDS) (Clinical Trials Indentifier Number: NCT03134196). It was first posted on April 28, 2017, and plans to enroll a total of 1,050 participants. 

A third currently-recruiting clinical trial is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin, and titled Identifying Young Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients at Risk for Herpes Zoster (Clinical Trialss Identifier Number: NCT03553472). It was first posted on June 12, 2018.

If you are suffering from shingles or other pain symptoms, please do not hesitate to call us. Located in Fort Mohave, we serve patients in Arizona, Nevada, and California. Dr. Benjamin Venger, our pain management expert, is here to help. Call us now at (928) 788-3333 or request an appointment online and don’t live another day with chronic pain!

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

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