Shingles in Adults: How to Recognize and Treat This Painful Condition

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful viral infection that affects the nerves and skin. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has recovered from chickenpox, the virus remains in their body in an inactive state. However, at some point in their life, usually when their immune system is weakened, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles.

Symptoms of Shingles

The first sign of shingles is usually a tingling or burning sensation on one side of the body. This is followed by a red rash that appears in the same area, typically on the torso or face. The rash then develops into fluid-filled blisters that can be very painful. Other common symptoms of shingles include fever, headache, and fatigue.

Who is at Risk

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles later in life. However, certain factors can increase the likelihood of a person developing shingles:
● Advanced age: Shingles most commonly occurs in people over 50 years old. As we age, our immune system weakens, making it easier for the virus to reactivate.
● Weakened immune system: People with weakened immune systems due to diseases like HIV or cancer, or those taking immunosuppressive medications are at a higher risk for shingles.
● Stress: Stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of developing shingles.
● Existing medical conditions: Conditions that affect the immune system, such as autoimmune diseases or organ transplants, can increase the risk of shingles.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for shingles, treatment can help relieve symptoms and shorten the duration of the infection. Treatment options may include:
Antiviral medications: These medications are most effective when taken within 72 hours of the rash developing. They can help speed up healing and reduce the risk of complications.
Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate the discomfort caused by shingles.
Topical creams: Creams containing capsaicin, lidocaine, or other numbing agents can be applied to the affected area to provide pain relief.
Antidepressants or anticonvulsants: In some cases, these types of medications may be prescribed to help manage nerve pain associated with shingles.
Individuals with shingles need to keep the affected area clean and avoid scratching or picking at the blisters, as this can lead to secondary infections. Additionally, patients should seek medical advice if shingles symptoms are severe or if the rash is near the eyes, as this can lead to serious complications.

In Oklahoma City, local clinics and dermatologists have expertise in treating shingles and can guide the best course of treatment tailored to individual cases. Early intervention is key, so recognizing symptoms promptly and consulting with healthcare professionals can greatly impact recovery outcomes.


While shingles usually resolves within a few weeks, there are potential complications that can arise from the infection:
Postherpetic neuralgia: This is a common complication of shingles where nerve pain persists even after the rash has cleared.
Vision problems: If the rash occurs near the eyes, it can lead to eye infections and potentially vision loss if left untreated.
Skin infections: Scratching and picking at the blisters can lead to bacterial skin infections that require medical treatment.
To reduce the risk of complications, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as shingles symptoms appear.


The best way to prevent shingles is through vaccination. The CDC recommends adults over 50 years old receive two doses of the shingles vaccine, Shingrix. This vaccine is over 90% effective in preventing shingles and its complications.
Other ways to reduce the risk of developing shingles include:
Maintaining a healthy immune system: Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can help boost the immune system and prevent shingles.
Managing stress: Finding healthy ways to cope with stress can help prevent shingles outbreaks.
● Avoid contact with individuals who have chickenpox or shingles: Shingles is contagious to those who have not had chickenpox, so it is important to avoid close contact with individuals who have these conditions.


Shingles can be a painful and uncomfortable condition, but with proper treatment and prevention measures, it can be managed effectively. It is essential to recognize the symptoms of shingles and seek medical attention promptly to reduce the risk of complications. Vaccination is the best way to prevent shingles, so adults over 50 should consider getting the shingles vaccine to protect themselves against this painful infection.
By taking care of our overall health and managing stress, we can also help prevent shingles outbreaks. Our local clinics and healthcare professionals are here to support individuals in recognizing and treating shingles, so don’t hesitate to seek medical advice if needed.

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