What Are Shingles?

Shingles (Herpes Zoster) can occur in patients who contracted chicken pox virus early in life. It usually remains dormant in the dorsal root ganglion of the thoracic or lumbar spine – that is a complex way of saying the virus usually hides quietly in the spinal nerves. When a person’s immune system becomes compromised, as the result of aging, stress, or in the case of someone infected with HIV or other immuno-compromised disease conditions, the virus can create lesions in a dermatome level across the chest, abdomen, down the leg or in the neck and facial region – meaning, the surface of the skin. At first it may present with some tingling and then discomfort before reaching the skin’s surface with red blisters along the affected nerve route.

Shingles can be quite painful with raised lesions that will dry and scab over time within a week or two. Although the rash usually heals within two to four weeks, some sufferers experience residual nerve pain for months or years, a patient may still experience pain called post-herpetic neuralgia. Initial treatment should include antiviral medications we can provide epidural steroid injections are often beneficial in reducing the nerve inflammation causing the pain. Most importantly, early intervention is key to preventing long-term pain from the condition.

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