Quick Shingles Facts
- Shingles is a painful skin condition that consists of a rash of blisters, usually confined to one area of the body.
- Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus, herpes zoster, reactivating. After your chickenpox outbreak heals, the chickenpox virus lies dormant in your nerve cells, but sometimes it can travel along the nerve fibers to your skin and cause shingles.
- If you have ever had chickenpox, you are at risk for shingles.
- Shingles occurs most often in people over the age of 60 and people whose immune systems are compromised.
- Usually, people only get shingles once.
If you think you have shingles, you should see a health practitioner to confirm the diagnosis. Normally, shingles can be treated at home using natural remedies, but sometimes you need to seek further medical care if certain symptoms or complications develop.
When You Should See a Doctor
During a shingles outbreak, you should see a doctor when:
- Shingles symptoms begin to develop on your face or head, especially near the eyes. Watch for pain in these areas and changes in vision. Shingles can cause serious complications if it spreads to the eyes, such as scratches on the corneas, bacterial infection, eye inflammation, light sensitivity, and blurry vision.
- Shingles symptoms affect your central nervous system. The following are problems you might experience if shingles is affecting your central nervous system: headaches, stiffness in the neck, loss of hearing, dizziness, muscle weakness, or changes in your ability to think or reason.
- Shingles sores spread to other areas of the body. Normally, shingles is restricted to one area.
- You develop a bacterial infection in the same area as the shingles rash appears.
- The shingles rash does not clear up in 2 to 4 weeks.
- You have pain or paralysis in your face.
After a shingles outbreak, you should seek medical attention if the pain persists for more than one month. This can be a sign of postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition where the nerves have been damaged by the virus. Postherpetic neuralgia is most common in older adults. You should also see a health practitioner if you have repeated outbreaks of shingles. This can indicate a serious immune system problem.
However, if you do not develop any of the above complications, shingles can be easily treated using natural home remedies. The following are highly recommended natural treatment methods:
- Topical creams are readily available. Try capsaicin cream to relieve pain, aloe to soothe your skin, or calamine lotion to soothe pain and itching.
- Get plenty of rest. Make sure your body is well rested so it can more effectively heal itself.
- Cool compresses can relieve pain and itching. Use a solution of one part white vinegar to 32 parts water, and apply the compresses 3 times per day.
- Cool baths can also help. Be sure the bath is not too cold. Adding baking soda or oatmeal can add extra relief.
- Boost your immune system by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure to get lots of vegetables, whole grains, and drink plenty of water.