Shingles: Diagnosis and Treatment

Shingles Diagnosis and Treatment

Shingles, a viral infection triggered by the varicella-zoster virus, can cause severe pain and discomfort. This blog sheds light on the crucial aspects of shingles diagnosis and treatment. From accurate diagnosis techniques to effective treatment options, we will explore the essentials of managing this condition. Stay informed and empowered to recognize and address shingles promptly.

What are Shingles?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant in the body's nerve tissue. However, it can reactivate years later, resulting in shingles. The condition is characterised by a painful rash that usually appears as a single stripe of blisters on one side of the body, typically on the torso or face.

Stages of Shingles

The stages of shingles can be summarised as follows:

Prodromal Stage: 

Nonspecific symptoms like headache, fever, fatigue, and localised discomfort.

Development of Rash: 

Appearance of a distinctive red, painful rash in a band or strip on one side of the body.

Blistering Stage: 

The rash progresses into fluid-filled blisters, causing pain, itching, or a burning sensation.

Healing Stage: 

Blisters dry out, form crusts, and eventually fall off as the skin heals, with pain and discomfort subsiding.

Timely medical attention is essential to accurately diagnose and treat shingles, reducing symptoms and preventing complications.

What causes Shingles?

Shingles are caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Here are the key points about the causes of shingles:

Varicella-Zoster Virus: 

Shingles are triggered by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which remains dormant in nerve tissue after a person recovers from chickenpox.

Weakened Immune System: 

Factors that weaken the immune system, such as ageing, tension, certain medications, or medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, can increase the risk of shingles.

Virus Transmission: 

Shingles itself cannot be directly transmitted, but a person with shingles can spread the varicella-zoster virus to others who have not had chickenpox. This can result in the development of chickenpox in those individuals, not shingles.

Prior Exposure: 

Shingles primarily affect individuals who have had a previous episode of chickenpox. The virus reactivates later in life, usually after the age of 50, but can occur at any age.

Symptoms and Treatment of Shingles

Symptoms of Shingles:

Painful Rash: 

A distinctive rash usually appears as a band or strip of red blisters on one side of the body.

Itching and Burning Sensation: 

The affected area may experience itching, tingling, or a burning sensation before the rash appears.

Nerve Pain: 

Shingles can cause intense nerve pain, often described as sharp, shooting, or electric-like.

Flu-Like Symptoms: 

Some individuals may experience flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, fatigue, and general malaise.

Treatment of Shingles:

Antiviral Medications: 

Prescribed antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir, can help shorten the duration of the shingles outbreak and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Pain Relief: 

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate pain and discomfort. In some cases, prescription medications for pain management, including topical creams or patches, may be recommended.

Calming the Rash: 

Applying cool compresses or using calamine lotion can help soothe the rash and relieve itching.

Rest and Self-Care: 

Getting plenty of rest, practising good hygiene, and keeping the rash clean and dry can aid in the healing process.


The shingles vaccine, recommended for individuals aged 50 and older, can help prevent or reduce the severity of shingles and its complications.

What are Risk Factors for Shingles?

Several risk factors can increase an individual's likelihood of developing shingles. These risk factors include:

Previous Chickenpox Infection:

Individuals who have had chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles because the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in the body.

Advanced Age: 

The risk of shingles increases with age, particularly in individuals over the age of 50. Ageing weakens the immune system, making it more susceptible to virus reactivation.

Weakened Immune System: 

Certain conditions or medications that suppress the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, organ transplantation, or cancer treatments like chemotherapy, can increase the risk of shingles.


High levels of physical or emotional tension can weaken the immune system and make an individual more vulnerable to shingles.


Women are slightly more likely to develop shingles than men, though the reasons for this difference are not yet fully understood.

Take Away

Shingle is a viral infection with a painful rash. Key takeaways: prompt diagnosis is vital, treatments include antiviral medications and pain relief, and understanding risk factors helps prevent and manage shingles. Stay informed, seek medical attention, and take precautions for your well-being.


Q; How long should you stay home with shingles?

A: It is recommended to stay home until the shingles rash has dried and crusted over to avoid spreading the virus. This usually takes around 7 to 10 days.

Q; What is the basic treatment for shingles?

A: The basic treatment for shingles includes antiviral medications, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, to reduce the severity and duration of the outbreak. Pain relief measures, such as over-the-counter pain relievers and topical creams, can also be used.

Q: Is tension the leading cause of shingles?

A: Tension is not the leading cause of shingles, but it can weaken the immune system, making a person more susceptible to developing shingles. Other factors, such as a history of chickenpox and age, play a more significant role in the development of shingles.


Shingles: Everything You Should Know, By Ana Gotter and Laura Goldman and Daniel Yetman, on January 26, 2022

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