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Articles » NINDS Shingles Information Page: NINDS
 

NINDS Shingles Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Shingles Information Page: NINDS

Main condition: Shingles

Conditions: Shingles


What is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox and represents a reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus. The disease generally affects the elderly, although it occasionally occurs in younger and/or immunodeficient individuals. The first sign is usually a tingling feeling, itchiness, or stabbing pain on the skin. After a few days, a rash appears as a band or patch of raised dots on the side of the trunk or face. The rash develops into small, fluid-filled blisters which begin to dry out and crust over within several days. When the rash is at its peak, symptoms can range from mild itching to extreme and intense pain. Contact with a person with shingles may cause chickenpox (but not shingles) in someone who has never had chickenpox before.

Is there any treatment?
Treatment for shingles includes antiviral drugs, steroids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical agents. The severity and duration of an attack of shingles can be significantly reduced by immediate treatment with the antiviral drugs acyclovir, valacyclovir or famcyclovir. These drugs may also help stave off the painful aftereffects of shingles known as postherpetic neuralgia.

What is the prognosis?
Although shingles can be very painful and itchy, it is not generally dangerous to healthy individuals and it usually resolves without complications. The rash and pain usually go away within 3 to 5 weeks. Sometimes serious effects including partial facial paralysis (usually temporary), ear damage, or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) may occur. Persons with shingles on the upper half of the face should seek medical attention immediately as the virus may cause serious damage to the eyes. Most people who have shingles have only one bout with the disease in their lifetime. However, individuals with impaired immune systems, i.e., people with AIDS or cancer, may suffer repeated episodes.

What research is being done?
The NINDS conducts and supports a program of research aimed at developing new treatments for and preventing the painful conditions of shingles.

 Organizations

American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA 95677-0850
ACPA@pacbell.net
https://www.theacpa.org/
Tel: 916-632-0922
Fax: 916-632-3208

National Chronic Pain Outreach Association (NCPOA)
P.O. Box 274
Millboro, VA 24460
ncpoa@cfw.com
Tel: 540-862-9437
Fax: 540-862-9485

VZV Research Foundation [For Research on Varicella Zoster]
40 East 72nd Street
New York, NY 10021
vzv@vzvfoundation.org
https://www.vzvfoundation.org/
Tel: 212-472- 3181 800-472-VIRUS (8478)
Fax: 212-861-7033

National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain
1330 Skyline Drive
#21
Monterey, CA 93940
mgordon@mbay.net
https://www.paincare.org/
Tel: 831-655-8812
Fax: 831-655-2823

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Shingles: Hope Through Research
    An informational booklet on shingles compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type I
    Ramsay Hunt Syndrome Type I (Herpes Zoster Oticus) information page compiled by NINDS, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • Pain: Hope Through Research
    Information booklet on pain compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892


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